The new prison without bars in Samoranovo was presented publicly

29-04-2024 15:51

The new complex in the village of Samoranovo, which includes a pilot prison without bars on the Norwegian model, transitional wards, a training center for prison officers and others, was presented publicly today, 16 months after the first groundbreaking.

"I feel extremely proud that we can show the real results of our joint project with the Norwegian Financial Mechanism (NFM). I have taken it as a personal cause because I have been actively involved in it for most of it – both as a minister and as a line deputy minister," said Minister of Justice Maria Pavlova in her address to the participants at the final conference of the project held earlier in the day in Sofia.

This is an extraordinary success, it is incredible! - was the assessment of Kim Ekhaugen, Director of the International Directorate at the Norwegian Correctional Service. "We pushed you a lot with the deadlines, the talks were not easy, we talked about Plan B and C, and you said: No, we only implement Plan A and that's it. Our Bulgarian friends always find a solution and save the situation with their creative approach," Ekhaugen said.

The project under the NFM Justice Programme 2014-2021 is implemented by the General Directorate for Execution of Punishments (GDEP) with funding from the Kingdom of Norway in the amount of BGN 42 million.

The project includes the construction of a new pilot prison in the village of Samoranorovo for 400 prisoners and a training centre for 100 GDEP staff. The modern penitentiary complex also includes a new detention facility, half way houses where prisoners who are due to be released soon can prepare for their return to society. A social centre is also planned where public institutions, NGOs and civil society can participate in initiatives aimed at better integration and social inclusion of prisoners. A school, a library, a chapel and workshops have been built.

Today, Minister Maria Pavlova gave special thanks to the sceptics who, by claiming how "we won't make it, provoked us to give our best and make it happen". She recounted how at the groundbreaking of the complex a year and four months ago, then Minister Krum Zarkov had said: I feel something big is happening. And it is really big for the whole penitentiary system, Pavlova was explicit.

"This is a dream come true for every prison warden and the GDEP," said GDEP Director General Commissioner Ivaylo Yordanov. He stressed: "Our main role is to work with inmates and prepare them for a life of freedom." The entire complex is ready to be put into operation in early September after the staff undergoes special training.

The public presentation in Samoranovo in the afternoon was opened by the famous actor Vladimir Karamazov. Prisoners are people just like us, and learning about their stories was the biggest learning experience for me, said the crowd favourite. For several months he has been working on a project in cooperation with the prison in Belene.