Bulgaria: Roma in the Penitentiary System

Commission for Protection Against Discrimination (Sofia, Bulgaria)

This project, "Improvement of Penitentiary Staff's Capacity for Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Human Rights through Training Based on European Standards", was implemented in the period 2014-2016 by the public sector organization "Commission for Protection against Discrimination" (CPD) / Комисия за Защита от Дискриминация (КЗД) (Note 1). It received funding from the EEA and Norway Grants.

The project addressed the relations between staff at selected Bulgarian penitentiaries, on the one hand, and inmates, on the other hand. The rationale for the project was that the staff belong to the majority ethnic, cultural and religious group, while the overwhelming majority of inmates are Roma (in stark contrast to the fact that they constitute around 4-5 percent of the population).

I represented a Norwegian organization, Supras Limited, that was the project's Norwegian partner. Supras contributed presentation and analysis of the Norwegian penitentiary system, in particular how it works with inmates with minority ethnic, cultural, and/or religious backgrounds. This information was used as input into preparing a training program for penitentiary staff. The training focused on human rights, discrimination, and inclusion. The training was given to staff at four penitentiares in the cities of Pleven Sliven, and Sofia, one of which had only female inmates.

I am wondering, how did this project fare? Did it make a difference? Did discriminatory behavior on the part of staff against especially Roma inmates decrease? Did it have the result of Roma inmates experiencing the situation while incarcerated as being better? Finally, on the longer term, did it impact the inclusion and integration of Roma as they returned to society?

It would be interesting – indeed very useful – to evaluate the outcome as well as the impact of this project.

Lars T Soeftestad

(1) CPD / КЗД's website is at: https://www.kzd-nondiscrimination.com/layout/
(2) Image credit: Lars Soeftestad, Supras Ltd. About: at the offices of Commission for Protection Against Discrimination, in Sofia, 12 September 2014. The location is an on-site courtroom for preliminary hearings of persons in police custody, prior to a possible court trial and sentencing. From left: Diliana Traikova, Lars Soeftestad, Ana Dzhumalieva, Baki Huseinov.
(3) Relevant Devblog articles: "Roma and Health Awareness 2" at: https://devblog.no/en/article/roma-and-health-awareness-2 | "Roma and Health Awareness 1" at: https://devblog.no/en/article/roma-and-health-awareness-1 | "Train or Be Trained Vs Eat or Be Eaten" at: https://www.devblog.no/en/article/train-or-be-trained-vs-eat-or-be-eaten

(4) Other Devblog articles: "Romfolk: på an igjen" at: https://devblog.no/no/article/romfolk-pa-igjen | "Agder og internasjonalisering" at: https://devblog.no/no/article/agder-og-internasjonalisering | "Anthropology and Development Cooperation" at: https://www.devblog.no/en/article/anthropology-and-development-cooperation
) Permalink. URL: https://devblog.no/en/article/bulgaria-roma-penitentiary-system
(6) This article was published 15 September 2020. It was revised 17. September 2020.