Disrespecting the Law on Execution of Sanctions – reason for adverse consequences on the life of people who use drugs

Pursuant Article 193 from the Law on Execution of Sanctions during a prison sentence, with an increased intensity in the last three months before the expiration of the sentence, “it is necessary to undertake activities in order to prepare the convicts for release from prison and their adjustment to life at freedom.” However, quite often people are released from prison without any personal identification documents and proper health care.   

On October 9th, 2016, M.H. was released from prison, serving a sentence at the correctional facility Idrizovo in duration of 14 years. During imprisonment he had no personal documentation. And here is where the first question arises. How could M.H. have been convicted without proper personal identification? How did the prosecutor and the judge establish the defendant’s correct identity without proper personal identification documents? According to our sources, the judiciary system doesn’t allow for such situations, however convicts without valid personal identification documents are still found in prisons. The failing system goes so far that during elections convicts vote with their facility badges instead of IDs. However, convicts who lack valid personal identification documents are faced with real problems once they are released.

After having served his sentence, M.H. was released from prison without an identification card and health insurance. The only document he was released with was a medical certificate to serve him for continuing his methadone treatment, even though, in order to continue the substitution therapy he required health care. While in prison, M.H. received therapy pursuant the prison rules and conditions, however, once he was released, he was expected to provide personal identification documents, health care and doctor’s prescription, all by himself, in order to continue with treatment. While in the process of procuring the above, he had no access to therapy.

Methadone therapy was not the only health service he required. While serving the prison sentence he was diagnosed and treated for epilepsy, however after his release he was not issued proper documentation that established his health condition. In the period without health care, M.H. suffered an epileptic seizure, which I personally witnessed, and was treated with a single symptomatic therapy instead of a proper treatment.

This case is one of many that HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje has registered in the course of its work with people who use drugs and who have been released from prison without an ID or health care. Most often they seek help from HOPS since they feel discriminated against and lack trust in state institutions.

Pursuant Article 193 from the Law on Execution of Sanctions during a prison sentence, with an increased intensity in the last three months before the expiration of the sentence, “it is necessary to undertake activities in order to prepare the convicts for release from prison and their adjustment to life at freedom.” However, quite often people are released from prison without any personal identification documents and proper health care.

People who use drugs, regardless of the necessity for long-term treatment, during their prison sentence are treated from drug addiction with methadone or buprenorphine substitution therapy. Drug addiction is a health condition that requires long-term and continuous treatment and people released from prison have to continue treatment in one of the Drug Prevention and Treatment Centres. In 37 cases registered by HOPS from 2012 until the present, people released from prison without personal identification documents and health insurance were not able to immediately continue treatment since they were first required to provide an ID card and health care. This procedure usually takes 4 to 10 days, even longer in certain cases. These people remain without therapy during that time, even though the smallest amount of stress can cause relapse in their health condition, cancelation of treatment, opioid overdose, or in certain events even repeating a criminal behaviour.

Pursuant Article 194, paragraph 1, 2 and 3 from the Law on Execution of Sanctions, before releasing the convict, he shall be examined by a doctor who shall then in written establish the convict’s state of health. In cases when the convict is seriously ill during the time of his release from serving a sentence, the institution shall put him into the nearest health institution. If the convict has no resources to pay the expenses for his treatment, the institution shall bear the expenses made during the first month of his release. However, despite the clear regulations prescribing treatment of people with health problems during their release from prison, the abovementioned examples testify to a different practice in reality, which presents a serious violation of the human and constitutional rights by the institutions.
 
Margarita Gliguroska

The author holds a bachelor degree from the Faculty of Law Iustinianus Primus at the St. Cyril and Methodius University – Skopje. At present she is working as a legal counsellor at HOPS – Healthy Options Project Skopje.
 

Тhe rest from the eight edition of „Drugs - Policies and Practices" you can read HERE.

And the old numbers of the magzaine Drugs - Policies and Practices.