Prison conditions were unsanitary, overcrowded, harsh, and life threatening. Some facilities, such as the minimum security camp LBK-12, are located in areas that result in inmates experiencing extremely harsh climate conditions, with excessive heat in the summers and frigid temperatures in the winter.
There were unconfirmed reports of physical abuse of prisoners by prison officials and other prisoners. According to the TILA report, the total imprisonment capacity in the colonies and prisons (excluding the military penal battalion) was 8,100 inmates. According to this report, however, prior to the amnesty act announced in 2009, the inmate population totaled 26,720 persons. This figure did not include detainees kept in pretrial detention facilities, police-run temporary holding facilities, occupational therapy rehabilitation centers, and the penal battalion. The detainees in pretrial detention facilities were predominantly individuals who had been sentenced but had not been transferred to colonies. The six pretrial detention facilities are designed for 1,120 persons, but it is estimated that they house three to four times that number.
The TILA report also noted that guards and other prisoners engaged in widespread violence against inmates. According to the February TILA report, in the LBK-12 facility, “physical abuse is used against inmates by the colony personnel and other individuals with the consent and often following the instructions of the colony’s administration.” The report also noted that there were several inmate groups organized on a “tribal principle” and that “real fights with knives and knuckles occur between the groups, which result in a high death toll among the prison population.” Diseases, particularly tuberculosis (TB), were widespread. Due to overcrowding, officials reportedly held inmates diagnosed with TB and skin diseases with healthy detainees, contributing to the spread of disease. There continued to be concerns that the government did not adequately test and treat prisoners with TB before they were released into the general population, although the government claimed that it did so. The government reported that it transferred prisoners diagnosed with TB to a special Ministry of Interior hospital in Mary Province for treatment and arranged for continuing treatment for released prisoners at their residences.
The nutritional value of prison food was poor, and the majority of prisoners suffered from malnutrition. Prisoners depended on relatives to supplement inadequate prison food supplies. Some family members and inmates stated that prison officials sometimes confiscated these food parcels. The availability of potable water could not be confirmed.
Authorities typically incarcerated men and women in separate facilities. The number of facilities for female prisoners and detainees was not available, but according to the TILA report there were 2,010 female prisoners held at the DZK/8 facility in Dashoguz.
Complete data on the average sentence or numbers of incarcerated juveniles were not available. A pretrial detention facility under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry housed adults and juveniles and accommodated approximately 800 persons. This number included individuals in pretrial detention, on remand, and those already convicted but not yet transferred to penal colonies.
In March the government revised Article 88 of the criminal code, which pertains to the punishment of juveniles. Under the revised code, first-time juvenile offenders convicted of minor offenses are subject to compulsory reform schooling rather than harsher forms of punishment. The government previously placed convicted juveniles in medical-educational facilities.
According to relatives, some prisoners were unable to receive supplies, and family members often were denied access to the prisoners. The government did allow diplomats to access prisoners held on criminal charges who were nationals of their countries. The government did not report whether prisoners were permitted religious observance and reported no systematic monitoring of prison and detention center conditions. There were no reports of a prison ombudsman.
Government officials generally disregarded inquiries from family members and diplomats about political prisoners’ locations or condition. On March 28, however, the government released information about the number of family visits, food package, and medical services received since 2007 by imprisoned journalists Annagurban Amanklychev and Sapardurdy Hajiev. Government officials continued to refuse to permit family members and international observers, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), access to detainees or prisoners. The government and the ICRC have been unable to agree on acceptable conditions for regular prison visits. As a result, the ICRC did not conduct regular prison visits during the year. In July, however, the government allowed ICRC officials to visit an unspecified Ministry of Interior facility.
On May 17 and 18, the UNCAT considered the initial report of the government on the fulfillment of its obligations as a signatory of the Convention against Torture. In its concluding observations, the UNCAT report expressed regret “that the [government’s] report lacks statistical and practical information on the implementation of the provisions of the convention and that it was submitted 10 years late, which prevented the committee from conducting an analysis of the implementation of the convention by the state party following its ratification in 1999.”