Cumberland Times-News

November 20, 2008

NBCI hosts senior prison officials

Officials from the Republic of Georgia

Jeffrey Alderton

CUMBERLAND — Senior officials of the Republic of Georgia’s prison department made their first visit to a U.S. prison Tuesday when they toured the North Branch Correctional Institution. The group also visited the Cumberland office of the Maryland Department of Parole and Probation during its six-day visit to Maryland.

“There were a lot of novelties, new and different ideas, that we observed. It is very hard to tell if we will implement them into our prison system. We need to take back ideas, digest them and adjust them to the reality of our prisons in Georgia,” said Nikoloz Dzimtseishvili, Ministry of Justice inspector general.

The Georgian official, accompanied by Revas Charbadze, deputy head of the prison department, and Vakhtang Gorgadze, head of logistics for the prison department, responded to questions from the Times-News through interpreter Tina Magradze of the U.S. Embassy in Georgia.

The visit was coordinated by Donald Stolworthy, U.S. State Department corrections adviser, who said such visits “are mutually constructive and beneficial.”

Dzimtseishvili took note of “how well security is provided” as well as observation of “how inmates live and how their human rights are protected” at NBCI, where 80 percent of the inmates are serving life sentences.

“This particular visit will be very beneficial for the prison system in Georgia, not just for visiting and sharing information but for discussions with the parole and probation that will be considered in Georgia regarding organization structure and training of management,” said Dzimtseishvili.

The Republic of Georgia reportedly has 19,000 people on probation, compared to more than 70,000 in the state of Maryland. The Cumberland office supervises approximately 500 cases.

Asked if the death penalty is allowed in Georgia, Dzimtseishvili said, “No, we do not have the death penalty according to the law of the Republic of Georgia. It is written in the constitution that way.”

Charbadze said he has visited prisons in other countries, including Poland and France, but their visit to Cresaptown marked “the first visit of a Georgian to an American prison.”

“The U.S. prison system is one more good example to benefit Georgia,” he said.

The group also visited D.C. Jail in Southeast Washington; the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center in Baltimore; and the Maryland Division of Correction regional training center in Hagerstown.

The Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs hosted the Georgian visitors.

NBCI Warden John Rowley said their visit was part of the Republic of Georgia’s efforts to reform and rebuild their prison system. “They heard that North Branch is state-of-the-art,” he said.

Dzimtseishvili said he hopes there will be additional visits by Georgian officials to the U.S., while also extending an invitation.

“It’s now the Americans’ turn to visit us,” he said.

Contact Jeffrey Alderton at jlalderton@times-news.com.