On 31 March 2015, at the plenary session of the Parliament of Georgia, the Parliamentary Majority MP, Soso Vakhtangashvili, stated: "More than ten prisoners have refused their early release due to the fact that the treatment of hepatitis C in the penitentiary facilities is free."FactCheck
took interest in the accuracy of this statement.In his conversation with FactCheck Soso Vakhtangashvili pointed out that he made his statement based upon the information voiced by the First Deputy Minister of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia, Kakha Kakhishvili. FactCheck
contacted Mr Kakhishvili as well who confirmed this information, adding, however, that he did not state a specific number of prisoners.
First of all, it should be pointed out that the agreement between the Ministry of Labour, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia and the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia on the implementation of hepatitis C programmes in the country’s penitentiary facilities was signed in December 2013. Diagnostic research was conducted as a first stage. The implementation of the programme started from 1 March 2014 and the penitentiary facilities were supplied with appropriate medication (Interferon). About 250 prisoners have already finished the programme. The current overall number of prisoners involved is 150. A total of GEL 2.545 million was allocated for the programme, 1.400 million of which has already been spent.
In order to specify the number of prisoners who refused early release we requested information from the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia. We received these data with a delay which caused the process of our research to be delayed as well. According to the information we received, a total of 138 prisoners refused early release from 1 January 2015 to 1 April 2015. The number of such cases was about 200 in 2014. The appropriate documentation (protocols) was filed about the issue and sent to local councils.
Prisoners who refused early release in 2014 and 2015 were under treatment for various diseases (oncologic diseases, hepatitis; neurological, cardiovascular, bone and joint disorders and so on). Most of them were involved in the viral hepatitis C diagnostics and treatment programme. A total of 338 prisoners refused early release in 2014 and 2015. More than half of them were involved in the hepatitis C diagnostics and treatment programme.
According to the information of the Ministry of Corrections and Legal Assistance of Georgia, a total of 338 prisoners refused early release in 2014 and 2015 owing to the fact that they were undergoing medical treatment for various diseases. Most of these prisoners were involved in the viral hepatitis C diagnostics and treatment programme.
It is very difficult to imagine the reasons for prisoners to refuse their early release from prison other than receiving free-of-charge medical treatment for hepatitis C and other diseases. The fact is that the majority of these prisoners chose to stay in prison precisely because of this motivation.FactCheck concludes that Soso Vakhtangashvili’s statement is TRUE.