The Hungarian system of penitentiary disciplinary procedures is dysfunctional due to systemic and procedural reasons, as suggested by the HHC’s monitoring and project experiences and information provided by lawyers as well as penitentiary staff. The rules on the disciplinary liability of the detainees are insufficient and do not ensure in practice the procedural rights of prisoners charged with a disciplinary offense. This is particularly worrying because disciplinary measures are taken into consideration by penitentiary judges when making parole decisions.
Hence in 2012 the HHC launched the project “Improving the Fairness of Disciplinary Procedures in Penitentiaries”, which aimed to contribute to ensuring more fair and just disciplinary procedures in penitentiary institutions through the research of disciplinary procedures in cases of detainees with particular consideration to the enforcement of fair trial guarantees and the drafting proposals to change the legislative framework and the existing practice in order to strengthen the fairness of disciplinary procedures.
In the framework of the project, the HHC conducted in-depth analysis of international standards and the Hungarian legal regulation applicable to disciplinary procedures in penitentiaries, including the local prison rules and regulations.
Upon the permission of and in cooperation with the National Penitentiary Headquarters, a questionnaire-based case-file research was conducted in four penitentiary institutions into 120 disciplinary procedures, along with interviews with prison staff and penitentiary judges. Defense lawyers who entered into contract with the HHC provided legal representation to detainees under a disciplinary procedure in order to gain a deeper insight into the practice of disciplinary procedures.
Experiences gained by the research were presented at a round-table discussion held with the participation of the representatives of the National Penitentiary Headquarters, the penitentiary institutions involved in the project, the Supreme Court (Curia), the Office of the Chief Prosecutor, the Hungarian Bar Association and the National Institute of Criminology. The study summarizing the outcome and the conclusions of the research was finalized with consideration to the suggestions which the HHC had received at the round-table discussion.
The project was supported by the Open Society Foundations.