Inspection Visits
One of the tasks of the Chancellor of Justice is to ensure that people held in places of
detention are treated in line with human dignity. To fulfil this task, the Chancellor’s advisers
carry out mostly unannounced visits to places of detention. The duty of regular inspection of
places of detention is laid down by Article 4 of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention
against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
A place of detention as an international concept means a place where a person may be
deprived of their liberty and which they cannot leave at will. Under this concept, places of
detention include, for example, prisons and expulsion centres for aliens, but also care homes
providing 24-hour care and psychiatric hospitals providing involuntary treatment.
The emergency situation established to combat the spread of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2
also affected organisation of inspection visits. This forced the Chancellor to revise her plans
for inspection visits and find possibilities to do the work so as to protect the rights of people
held in places of detention while not endangering their life and health. We were successful in
this: the Chancellor’s supervision of places of detention was not interrupted. During the
inspection visits, the Chancellor’s advisers used personal protective equipment (masks, face
shields, gloves, etc.) − so it was possible to inspect places of detention even when the virus
was widespread.

Places of detention
Tartu, Tallinn and Viru Prison are closed cell-based prisons with open prison units. In Estonian
prisons, a total of approximately 2400 people are detained, of whom more than 400 people
are remand detainees waiting for a court judgment, while the remainder are convicted
prisoners serving a sentence. Prisoners include about a hundred women and about ten
minors. Also 39 prisoners are serving a life sentence in prison, and about 160 people are in an
open prison unit.

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