Improving standards in prisons and investigative detention facilities by refurbishment of infrastructure to ensure respect for human rights

Project facts

Project promoter:
General Directorate Executon of Sentences
Project Number:
Target groups
Initial project cost:
Final project cost:
From Norway Grants:
€ 5,961,950
The project is carried out in:


The current conditions of material and technical facilities in prisons and places of detention in Bulgaria are inadequate, with an acute shortage of buildings, a high degree of prison overcrowding and deteriorating conditions that present a risk to the physical and psychological health of prisoners and detainees. This precludes the possibility for effective correction in line with the principles set out in the recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and the International Minimum Standards for Places of Detention. The objective of the project is to improve the material conditions in the following prison facilities in line with requirements laid down in national and international law and standards: Burgas, Varna, Pleven, Schumen, Lovech, Sliven, Atlant and Stara Zagora. The renovations are intended to provide for humane treatment of offenders and guarantee that their human rights are respected. In the case of Burgas the improvements will create 400 new places and reduce the overcrowding in the prison. The Council of Europe is a partner in the project and provides expert advice to ensure that the international standards are met. The approach in providing correctional services in Bulgaria excludes ethnically determined separation of the prisoners. Specific treatment is applied only in respect to vulnerability of inmates. Minority groups, such as Roma, are one of the vulnerable groups in prison. Although the measures in the programme are not directly targeted to benefit Roma this minority group, which has a rather high representation percentage in the said prison facilities, will benefit from the project activities.

Summary of project results

For years the prison sector, including the pre-trial detention facilities, has been subject to underfunding, which has led to poor conditions repeatedly pointed out in the reports of the involved international institutions. The project addressed the need to support the efforts comply with fundamental principles established in the conventions and the recommendations of the Council of Europe and the international standards related with the places of detention which guarantee better conditions of life and work. The intended overall impact was guaranteeing humanity when implementing the sentences and improvement of the possibilities for rehabilitation, decrease of recidivism and improvement of the work conditions for prison staff. Under Output `Refurbished prison estate in line with CPT standards`, in total the reconstruction works took place at 9 sites – prisons, prison hostels, a training centre, medical centres, and kitchen blocks. All the sites are fully operational as of present moment. The technical details of the reconstruction and equipment were consulted by experts of the Council of Europe in terms of conformity with the international standards. The target of 120 inmates of Roma and other minorities benefiting from the improved conditions was overachieved. Under Output `Refurbished IDF in Shoumen` the target values of the indicators were also achieved. The former military premises were reconstructed and currently accommodate the investigation detention facility and the office of the local probation service. The number of 10 inmates of Roma and other minorities benefiting from the improved conditions was achieved on yearly basis. The successful completion of the project largely solved the problem of overcrowding in some of the biggest detention places in Bulgaria. The infrastructure measures have been designed and implemented in strict compliance with the international standards on correctional services and detention, including the Council of Europe’s European Prison Rules, recommendations of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

Summary of bilateral results

The bilateral relations have had the shape of formal partnerships and of ad hoc exchange and collaboration. The DPP, the Council of Europe became also a project partner. The Council of Europe has advised and assisted the PP in the process of development of technical specifications and requirements for designing and reconstructing of the facilities. At a later stage the Council of Europe has followed the implementation of the activities to ensure the achievement of relevant standards and best practices. Additionally, a sound cooperation has been established between the PP and the Directorate of the Norwegian Correctional Service (KDI). The operational partnership with the KDI started in the very beginning of the implementation period. The implemented bilateral initiatives has been focused on project related issues. Their contribution was towards assessment of the infrastructure interventions against the applicable standards, increase of the management capacity of the PP, exchange of relevant practices.