Insight: The prison system in Ukraine, 1999–2012
Ludmilla Nestryliai has worked for the SDC in Kyiv since 2001 and has overseen many projects during her career as a local staff member. As she explains, there was a desire on the part of the Ukrainian authorities to make prisons more modern and humane, which amounted to a breakthrough in terms of human rights. This coincided with a growing realisation that in order not to reoffend, inmates would have to be successfully rehabilitated. In Bila Tserkva, a large prison near Kyiv, a wide range of reforms were carried out and it is now considered a model institution in Ukraine.
Young women who gave birth while in prison could only see their child twice a day. This meant that breastfeeding was impossible. The children were housed in a children's home adjoining the prison. Thanks to Swiss support, the buildings were converted so that mothers could live with their children during their sentences. However, the Swiss support was not limited to the conversion of buildings. Staff received training, work was coordinated between different actors and offenders received support after completing their sentences, for example in vocational skills development. This ensured a successful return to normal life after prison, both for mothers and for their children.