Prison and detention center conditions generally did not meet international standards. The government permitted visits by independent human rights observers and took some measures to remedy poor conditions in its facilities.
Physical Conditions: The Ministry of Justice reported that authorities held 5,576 persons in the country’s 12 prisons and detention centers. This included 1,657 detainees awaiting trial or the outcome of an appeal. Detainees and convicts were sometimes held together.
The prison population included 53 juvenile males, who were held at a separate juvenile facility that included a state-funded school.
The prison population included 381 women held in a separate prison. Authorities held two juvenile female prisoners in a separate wing of the women’s prison. The ombudsman’s office and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) considered the physical conditions at the women’s prison to be better than at other facilities.
The ombudsman’s office received 97 complaints about prison conditions during the first six months of the year, compared with 68 during 2012. The Justice Ministry received 250 complaints regarding prison conditions during the first six months of the year, compared to 579 during 2012. The state police received 11 complaints about conditions in short-term detention facilities. The complaints concerned living conditions, access to health care, and human rights violations.
Prisoners generally had access to potable water. Health care services for inmates remained inadequate. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) received complaints regarding the conditions of prisons and police detention cells, violence by prison officials, inadequate investigations, and lengthy court proceedings.
Through June prison authorities opened investigations into three prisoner deaths, which were ruled to be suicides. NGOs reported that prisoner suicides were caused by a shortage of psychologists and resocialization programs.
Administration: Recordkeeping on prisoners was satisfactory. In 2012 prison administrators established a centralized database of all inmates. Authorities used alternative sentencing measures, including reduced sentences and rehabilitation programs for nonviolent offenders, and prisoners had reasonable access to visitors. Some NGOs complained that the separation of visitors from inmates by a glass wall during visits, which is not mandatory according to regulations, was a violation of inmates’ right to privacy. Authorities allowed prisoners and detainees to observe religious practices and keep religious articles in cells and dormitory rooms.
Prisoners and detainees could submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship. Authorities generally investigated credible allegations of inhumane conditions and documented the results of investigations in a publicly accessible manner, although some NGOs alleged that complaints were not reviewed in a timely manner.
The ombudsman’s office monitored conditions at prisons and detention facilities. Ministry of Justice and other government officials investigated and monitored prison and detention center conditions. The new chief of the Prison Administration, who assumed office in July, dismissed several guards at Jelgava prison following an investigation of reports about mistreatment of inmates.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers. The CPT’s country report published on August 27 concluded that conditions observed in 2011 in some police detention facilities “were so poor that they could be considered as amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment.”
Improvements: NGOs acknowledged that the government made some improvements to conditions in prisons and other detention facilities during the year. They asserted, however, that the worst conditions concerning health care were not remedied.
In response to the CPT report, authorities referred to training and education programs being offered to police officers on various subjects, including the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, interrogation techniques, and the use of physical force, special means, and weapons. Authorities improved physical conditions in several police detention facilities and prisons.
On April 1, legislation came into force to reduce the prison population in accordance with CPT recommendations. According to the new law, the suggested terms of imprisonment under sentencing guidelines for property-related crimes were reduced. Prisoners sentenced for these crimes could appeal their sentences based on new guidelines. Through June courts released 218 inmates following successful appeals of previous sentences. The law also provides for resocialization programs to reduce recidivism.