Georgia offers prisoners to swap jail for monastery

TIBILISIS: Georgian criminals could be swapping prison uniforms for cassocks under a new scheme to allow offenders to serve out their sentences in monasteries.

The project, unveiled by penal and church officials Friday, will allow “convicts to have the possibility of serving sentences in monasteries instead of prisons,” the prisons ministry said in a statement.

A committee made up of representatives of the general prosecutors’ office, the prisons ministry and the Georgian Orthodox Church Patriarchate will find and select potential candidates among convicts, the statement said. It said the scheme is in line with the government’s policy of “liberalising penal prosecution” and “defining new methods of re-socialisation” of convicts.

The project also appears aimed at addressing severe prison overcrowding in Georgia, a mountainous ex-Soviet republic of 4.4 million people bordering Russia and Turkey.

In a report last year,

Prison Reform International said nearly 20,000 people

were serving time in Georgian prisons, a 300 per cent

increase since 2004.