Europris interview with ms. Gergana Georgieva, director general of the general directorate execution of sentences, Bulgaria   




E U R O P R I S I N T E R V I E W 

Gergana Georgieva



Gergana Georgieva

EuroPris talks with Gergana Georgieva, Director General of the General Directorate Execution of Sentences, Bulgaria

EuroPris: Could you tell us about your career path? Why have you chosen to work in the prison and correctional field?

Gergana Georgieva My decision to work in the Bulgarian penitentiary system came by itself. I believe it is a sequel to my overall career path, which has always been connected to remands and penitentiaries. Since 1996, in the beginning of my career path, being an investigator, I’ve been directly engaged with the operation of remands and prisons. At a later stage, in the capacity of chief expert in the “National Prevention Mechanism” Directorate to the Office of the Ombudsman of the Republic of Bulgaria, I had the chance to visit over 95% of prisons in the country, as part of my monitoring duties. Hence, I am acquainted with the system and I can assert that each and every of its divisions is a “living organism”. Difficult as it may seem, I took the decision to manage and care for the system rather quickly.

How many Prison establishments do you oversee?

There are 13 prisons in Bulgaria, one of which is for juveniles and one for women. We have 22 open and closed prison hostels and 34 remands.

How many prisoners are in prison at the moment in Bulgaria?

At the moment there are 7227 persons serving time in prison, including people standing trial.

How many staff do you manage?

There are 4138 people employed in the penitentiary system in Bulgaria. This number encompasses management, administration, prison guards, social workers, psychologists, physicians and probation officers.



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Gergana Georgieva

What are in your opinion the required attributes and qualifications of someone wanting to be a prison officer?

Apart from qualities and qualifications, the staff, regardless of their positions and hierarchical standing, must also possess personal traits, corresponding to the nature of their work. It is extremely important for me that the motivating factor for people joining the service is a sense of personal responsibility, commitment towards the mission and aims of the organisation and consciousness that their work is of exceptional help to the society. Of course, these traits are key to the ability of employees to carry out their duties, but excellent training is also needed in the context of the specifics of this job. It is my belief that, if a prison employee is to be successful, they must perceive their work as a mission.

What is your opinion on the role of women in the European correctional field?

Recently, the tendency of women entering professions that used to be associated with men is being affirmed in Europe and in the world. The stigma that if you are to work in prison, you must be male has long been deemed inadequate and does not correspond with contemporary perceptions. Of course, the challenges that women face are bigger, especially when working in prisons for males. But we have the ability to show traits like perseverance, persistence, patience and ability to engage in dialogue. Our innate sensitivity and intuition is our ally, especially when faced with the need to make quick decisions in complex situations. I believe that ladies have earned their place in this area. But, out of personal experience, I must say that it is my pleasure to work the professionals in Bulgarian prisons, regardless of their gender.

What is the biggest concern with regards to security in prisons in your country?

One of the greatest challenges that a leader will face is to ensure security in prison. There are a few really significant things that really matter in order to reach maximum effect – the human factor – management of the prison on all levels, the professional training staff, provision of adequate technical equipment, and, last but not least, the engagement of inmates with meaningful activities. The combination of these elements and the balance among them guarantees not only good level of security, but also positive effect on the behavior of the people deprived of their liberty, which is part of the dynamic security concept.

What do you consider to be the biggest achievements for your service in 2015? What challenges you had to overcome?

The year 2015 was difficult for Bulgarian prisons, as well as the entire security sector. The changing policies, the uncertain situation in Europe and within the country, at last, but not at least the refugee crisis undoubtedly have a strong impact on the overall appearance and functioning of our prisons.

What are the challenges for your service this year?

The challenges facing our system this year are once again to improve the conditions in places of imprisonment, to improve the situation and preparation of personnel and prevent the occurrence and the spread of phenomena such as radicalisation and violent extremism. Of course the biggest challenge is to be a leader on a system that is at the stage of reform that should cause real change in the concept of execution of punishments in Bulgaria and to ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law. As Director General I believe in professionalism of my colleagues and am confident that together we can make change possible.



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Gergana Georgieva

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges for the European prison and correctional services at the moment?

The challenges are as common to all prisons in Europe as specific to every single prison administration. Globalisation, new phenomena such as radicalization and terrorism, refugee crisis entail redefining the entire concept in the field of execution of punishments. We need new strategies and approaches to work with specific groups of prisoners.

What benefits do you see being linked to an organisation such as EuroPris?

I think that the most important benefit to be member of EuroPris and similar organisations is the possibility to share views, perspectives and ideas among all European correctional leaders, professionals and practitioners.

Do your prisons engage with NGO’s / Charities? The NGO sector is a very important partner for the implementation of our mission and objectives. We work actively with organizations through the implementation of specialised programmes for inmates, but also toward further education and training of staff to update and upgrade their knowledge and skills. Within the framework of the small grants scheme NFM 2009-2014 were implemented 19 small projects from NGOs. Working with NGOs not only enriches our expertise, but also makes our work more transparent and increases attention on the role of prisons for the prosperity of society in general. What are the most important personal satisfactions and dissatisfactions connected with your occupation? What part of this job do you personally find most satisfying? Most challenging? What do you like and not like about working in the correctional field?

My personal gratification from my work as a head of the system for the implementation of sentences in Bulgaria, moreover I have been at this position for only 6 months, are development and sustainability. In 2015 it started good practice to improve conditions in prisons and remands so I can boldly assert that they meet European standards. There is development on the field of proper personnel recruitment and on the selection of leaders of each organisational body - big or small. The chance to communicate and exchange thoughts, ideas and strategies even about the leadership topic with colleagues from Europe, produce to me an exclusive sense of satisfaction.

If you could be remembered for one thing whilst being in charge, what would it be?

Fairness and professionalism. For me personally it has always been something very important!

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