The Bulgarian Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Association has great news! After 2 years of lawyers, friends, favours, notaries, rubber stamps, taxes, fees, identity witnesses and the lawyer for the Association going to over 8 banks! We finally got a bank account for the Association!
This means we can finally move on with the next step in the Association’s life. For what good is an association or union if it can not defend its own members!
The plan is simple; money collected by international donations will be used to pay lawyers to represent prisoners. For example, a prisoner is punished for a mobile phone for 14 days isolation cell. The prisoners is illiterate (as roughly 80% are) and broke (as roughly 90% are). So said prisoner can not appeal the punishment order. That’s where the prisoners asks the Association to jump in. depending on the logistics and complexity of the appeal needed either a prisoner or a lawyer will write the appeal for the prisoner. Sometimes an appeal can be simple enough but then there is no way to guarantee that it will leave the prison and make it to court, so again a lawyer is needed in the capacity of a mail man.
But appealing punishments doesn’t delay the coming into force of the punishment. So before the appeal is heard the prisoner goes to isolation. He does the full punishment of 14 days as is returned to general population where he then gets called to court. The judge overturns the punishment order but the immediate effect of the punishment was already enacted. So the prisoner can sue, but Bulgarian law is strange in that you must pay a % of the money you’re asking for as a deposit before submitting compensation requests. So you need money to ask for money, not to mention the lawyer fees.
Compensation cases are not at all ‘just about money’. It is in our collective interest to see the state punished for ordering frivolous punishments in the hope that bureaucrats that make said orders are reprimanded and the states practices changed in regards to the running of the prisons.
Up until now almost no one does or can sue the prison for wrongful punishment or for some other form of illegal order and so the prison administration continues to issue illegal orders with impunity. Even some prisoners are put in isolation fast as the prison knows that upon a court hearing the punishment will be overturned and no longer enforceable.
Of course if we win the cases the money should come back to the Association by way of contract with the lawyers. But cases can take years to reach conclusion and then even more so in chasing the state for reparations. But time is on OUR side!
Another issue is that the prison commits systematic violations of prisoners’ rights especially against prisoners with 1-2 year sentences; it can take the entire length of these prisoners’ sentences to get a court hearing or conclusion. Without a lawyer many cases are forgotten about once the prisoner goes free and so the prison in this way is allowed to repeat the same violations again and again. By employing lawyers the Association can help to stop systematic violations. Some cases are continuing despite the prisoner even being deported, which obviously the ex-prisoner could not do from Iran for example. Many victims of administrative violations are illegal immigrants convicted for illegal border crossing, most of whom are broke and do not understand Bulgarian which in itself is a major factor to violations, the lack of translators.
The project will work on the basis that lawyers will be employed on a case by case basis. Although the lawyers will be getting paid there is an understanding that the Associations funds are limited and so they have been very accommodating in terms of fees. In this regard the lawyers work should be considered to be mostly voluntarily.
The fee for appealing an order of the prison and defending a prisoner can be between 12€ and 50€, obviously there are some more complex cases that require a lot more detail and time, but the majority of the need lies within that cost bracket. Our goal is to raise about 3000€ which will see between roughly 250 and 60 prisoners defended yearly witch ranges from about 25% to 6% of the Sofia Central Prison population of 1000 prisoners, although we don’t want to limit ourselves to Sofia alone it is were we are the most organised. Obviously if we exceed out budget target more prisoners will be represented and we’ll also be able to take on more complicated yet often more substantial cases.
Please help donate. Have a whip around, 5 bucks from 20 people or 10 from 10 and city by city all over the world the coffers will be easily filled. For those who can, a fun way would be to organise a party or mini concert and charge people for entry. This is a grass roots way to really make a difference in fighting for the rights of prisoners in the European Unions poorest country.
Our account information is thus:
For further information, please contact us at BPRA1309@gmail.com
Warning, money will not be used or given to/for a specific prisoner, donations are for the Associations’ uses not to be mistaken with a money transfer to a specific prisoner. Money sent by friends or family to a prisoner will not be facilitated by us!
Chairman of the:
Bulgarian Prisoners’ Rehabilitation Association
БЪЛГАРСКО ЗАТВОРНИЧЕСКО СДРУЖЕНИЕ ЗА РЕХАБИЛИТАЦИ