Nino Lomjaria. (

TBILISI, DFWatch–Penitentiary authorities in Georgia have unleashed “prisoners managed by the administration” to systematically carry out “verbal attacks, threats and aggression” against representatives of the Public Defender’s Office, Ombudswoman Nino Lomjaria said on Wednesday.

The PDO earlier released a report claiming the management model of semi-open prisons was based on an informal hierarchy of prisoners, where the so-called “prison watchers” are allowed to keep the rest of the prisoners in check by silencing them and preventing them from talking about their problems.

“The publication of this report was followed by public attacks on the Public Defender and illegal actions by the Minister of Justice and the Penitentiary Service, as a result of which, it has become not only difficult but also dangerous for the representatives of the Public Defender’s Office to carry out visits and monitoring at the penitentiary establishments,” reads statement published by the PDO on its official website.

The Public Defender claims that PDO workers who carry out daily routine monitoring of prisons face “real threats from ‘informal governors’ supported by prison administrations”. The Public Defender is therefore considering the possibility of conducting preventive monitoring visits only under additional security measures.

The term “prison watchers” refers to the informal practice in Soviet and post-Soviet countries where a specific individual is appointed by the mob to “govern” day-to-day life in a particular prison. As a rule, these persons are mostly “thieves-in-law” ( analogous to “made-man” status in the Mafia) or their associates. Sometimes the watchers’ informal power is utilized by prison administrators to control the facilities and crack down on dissenters in exchange for better conditions and various benefits.