“Something big is happening today. Something that is extremely important for the Ministry of Justice and the penitentiary system, as well as for the state.” This is what Minister of Justice Krum Zarkov said at the symbolic groundbreaking of the new prison in Samoranovo.
The minister thanked everyone who “gave of their time and nerves to unite the public, their colleagues and political forces that this is necessary.” Special thanks were expressed to the Norwegian state, which financed the construction of the new prison.
“This facility, called a prison, will actually be something much more. More than 90 new jobs will be created here, a training centre will be created where the employees of the GDIN, more than 4,500 people, a small university will be trained. This place will completely change the economic situation in the region, because there will be production facilities here.
It is a new type of prison facility, important especially for people on the outside, for those who could become victims of crime, the venture has direct relevance to the security system. Because the better we do ‘inside’, the safer we will be on the outside,” the minister stressed.
The most ambitious project of the Ministry of Justice and the General Directorate for Execution of Penalties (the GDIN) is funded by the Norwegian Financial Mechanism 2014-2021. The support from the Kingdom of Norway in the amount of 35 million BGN is under the project “Increasing the capacity of staff, building a pilot prison linked to a training centre and improving the rehabilitation of the prisoners” of the Justice Programme.
Bulgaria’s first new prison in over 60 years is expected to be ready by the end of April 2024.
The investment project foresees the construction of a pilot prison with a capacity of up to 400 prisoners and a training centre on the Samoranovo site, where candidates for the GDIN will be trained according to specially developed programmes designed with the participation of Norwegian and international experts.
The second phase of the construction of the country’s most modern penitentiary complex will see the creation of a “transition ward” (half way house) to prepare people who are due to be released from prison for their return to society. A social centre is also envisaged where public institutions, NGOs and civil society can participate in initiatives aimed at better integration and social inclusion of the prisoners. Also planned are the construction of a school, a library, a chapel, and production workshops in which the prisoners will have the opportunity to work,
“The aim of the project is to respond to the new challenges and the international commitments made by Bulgaria to focus and consistency the reform in the penal enforcement sector so that it leads to real and long-term results,” said the GDIN Chief Commissioner Ivaylo Yordanov at the opening of the construction site.
On behalf of the Norwegian partners, Kim Ekhaugen, Head of International Cooperation at the Norwegian Correctional Service, expressed satisfaction with the results achieved. “We will monitor the construction process and work together with the MoJ and the GDIN over the next 15 months. The people who will work in this prison will receive qualified training,” said Kim Eckhaugen.
The event in Samoranovo was attended by four former Ministers of Justice - the current Deputy Prime Minister Ivan Demerdzhiev, the current Deputy Minister of Justice Maria Pavlova, Nadejda Iordanova and Danail Kirilov, as well as the former Deputy Minister of Justice Prof. Nikolay Prodanov. Deputy Ombudsman Elena Cherneva, the mayors of the municipality of Dupnitsa and the village of Samoranovo, representatives of the contractor company and others were also present.