Colony BL/D5 is located in the village of Akdash in Balkan region of Turkmenistan. It is considered the most corrupt, and former employees of the law enforcement and security agencies of Turkmenistan are kept there. The correspondent of ACCA managed to interview one of the former prisoners of this colony.
– Why is this colony considered the most corrupt?
– In the colony there are many influential and wealthy security officials who can pay a large sum of money, and a controlled-access facility differs from the freedom life only by one fence. Wealthy prisoners have special rich rooms (keldyms). The cost of a small room is from $20 000; at the same time, WC and shower are common and located separately outside. If it is a large room with a kitchen, toilet and bathroom, then the price comes to $100 000. In the rooms of rich prisoners, the floors are covered with Turkmen handmade carpets, in the value of $15-25 thousand, furnished with chic furniture, modern TVs up to $1500 on the walls. Also, wealthy prisoners can use mobile phones, some have laptops. All these former werewolves in uniform are accustomed to privileges and comfort at large, and they want the same beautiful and sweet life in the prison, the previously stolen money is enough for everything, even to have a personal chef, cleaner and orderly.
– And how do rich prisoners amuse themselves?
– For a lot of money they can afford any whim: prostitutes, weekly New Year’s holidays, swimming in the sea and even go hunting at night under escort. In the evenings, the rich gather in one of the keldyms and gamble. It happened that in one night they lost up to $200 000. With the use of alcohol and tramadol, there are no problems either. On weekdays, when ordinary prisoners work, the rich go to play football and volleyball, and on Sunday they prepare kebabs. For the moodiest prisoners, they bring food from the restaurants of the city of Turkmenbashi. In prison, they live by their own rules, they are allowed to have long hair and small beards. They do not go for checks (3 times a day), they wear jeans, tracksuits, and a prison uniform, as well as the law, are not intended for them. All these rich people are served by ordinary prisoners (washing, cooking, cleaning, running away on errands) who get pennies and leftovers from their lordly table for their slave labor. These elite prisoners organize all this luxury for themselves even before entering the colony.
– And what are the conditions for the rest of the prisoners?
– The rest live much more modestly, but they have to pay almost for everything: transfers at the checkpoint, prohibited items, excess of the norm, unauthorized drugs, meeting longer than usual. The amount of payment is agreed with the duty officers. Relatives of prisoners bring food in large quantities: meat, rice, vegetables, fruits, sugar, oil and all this in tens of kilograms. If you don’t want to work in the industrial zone, and you don’t want checks, searches, and everything else… Pay! All prisoners pay money, and even those who do not particularly have finances, they are called “poor fellows”. They club together for the repair of a common kitchen, toilet, shower, for the purchase of flowers, shrubs, trees. They also need to pay for repairing electrical wiring, wall outlets, stretching the cable, buying a new TV, a new pump for the bath (otherwise they will not have a bathe), changing the broken cooker hood in the kitchen. They have to pay for the use of the bath, and to the laundry staff for using the washing machine.
– And does the colony provide food for prisoners?
– Yes, over the past few years, nutrition has qualitatively and quantitatively improved and risen to an average level. In the morning, for breakfast, they give two large pieces of bread with margarine and sweetened tea, for lunch and dinner they give a variety of dishes: soups for the first, mashed potatoes with sprats in tomato sauce. The fish factory belongs to a former policeman, and all unsold products go to the prison camp. They also feed with pasta, on Tuesdays and Thursdays they give pilaf, which is cooked in unrefined cottonseed oil and mainly without meat. They give cutlets that need to be soaked in broth or boiling water, stewed cabbage, boiled pumpkin, salads, sometimes they give boiled eggs or omelette. The prison authorities are trying to monitor the quality of food of prisoners. Ordinary prisoners do not go hungry; most prisoners cook their own food from those products that relatives bring to them. Maximum 100-150 people go to the dining room. The leftovers and slops go on sale. There is a store on the territory of the prison, it works 5 days a week, you can buy absolutely any product, and if it is not in the store, you can order for a certain amount.
– What about the medical care?
– Medicines are in short supply, because the administration of the colony does not receive them at the proper level. Of course, prisoners can buy medicines in the colony, but only for cash, making a reservation in the medical post. Injections and other services are paid separately. If you urgently need some medicine, they will bring it to you, but it will cost 2 times more. The level of personnel of the medical post is not high, there is no equipment either. A pediatrician, gynecologist or veterinarian can treat patients. There is no dentist, and injections are made by former drug addicts with experience. If the prisoner becomes very ill, they call him an ambulance from the city and only in the daytime, at night it is impossible to call an ambulance, and the patient will have to stand until the morning if he does not die. There have already been fatal cases among ordinary prisoners; the best doctors of the city are brought to the rich and influential prisoners. Twice a year, a specialized car comes with an x-ray apparatus for fluoroscopy. Your life is worth as much as you have money.
– Do the checking structures know what happens in the colony?
– Several times a year there are inspections from Ashgabat; riot police, the Department of execution of punishment, and the Ministry of National Security come with inspections. Prosecutor of supervisory unit is one of them. They check mainly living conditions, food warehouse, dining room, medical post. The prosecutor for supervision talks with prisoners, gives advices, helps to draw up some documents (power of attorney for a car, a divorce, etc.). Each inspector will never leave this colony with an empty pocket; they will pay to everyone. Everyone wants to make money, there is never much money. Everyone wants to have a good car, send children to study abroad, a renovated apartment, have a beautiful lover, and if you are put in prison so that your family does not need anything and can come to visit you in prison. All of them know that sooner or later they will be in this prison.