Fr. Constantin Penteley: Penitentiary system in our country is like a punishment for a crime
The penitentiary service is still only called penitentiary; in fact, it is repressive because of the whole system of justice and rules in administering the law, Fr. Constantin Penteley, head of the Office for Penitentiary Pastoral Care, told the UGCC Department of Information Church.
According to him, the penitentiary system in Ukraine is like a punishment for a crime. It is used as a repressive apparatus for revenge so that a person completely loses his dignity, instead of being cleansed, changed for the better.
“Our judicial system is as follows: in the Old Testament it was an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; now it’s a jaw for a tooth, a head for an eye. This is the kind of system of punishment that exists. It seems that we have a basic principle of justice – revenge. Nobody thinks about how to convert these people to a better life, to give them a chance to mend,” said Fr. Constantin.
The main reason, in his opinion, is the imperfection of the judicial system in general and overcrowded prisons in particular.
According to Fr. Constantin, there are more than 40,000 people right now in prison. For comparison, in 2004 there were 32,000 people.
According to him, in Ukraine the most important principle is being violated – preventative measures are not being taken as much as they need to be.
He names only one reason why someone is unjustly detained – “so that he signs all the papers against him. This is a modern method of torture, because during the judicial investigation, which extends for a long time, usually years, people are so exhausted from waiting for the judicial sentence that he signs papers that say that he agrees sit longer, let’s say for half a year, and confesses to the crime.”
“Because prisons are overcrowded, there is such a situation – physically, the prison system is not able to respond to the needs of all detainees. Because after being locked up, all people, even if they were healthy, start to have health problems because of the bad conditions. This is due primarily to the tight conditions and because instead of two hours of walking, the prisoners are let outside for 40 minutes or are not let out all. The prison system has limited funding, so, for example, the mentally ill, who should get tranquilizers or other drugs to calm their nervous systems, do not get them. The same applies to infectious patients. Health aides often have to work with only a handful of pills and saline. And that’s all! But it’s not because the prison service is so bad; even if we had a European judicial system, with so many prisoners we would still need to spend half the state budget. Therefore, to solve the problem we must first look at the reasons why our prisons are overcrowded,” said Fr. Constantin.
UGCC Information Department