Penal work camps to remain

Penal work camps will not be transformed into prisons along European lines


Moscow, 22.09.2014

Quoting a source from Russia’s Justice Ministry and Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS), Izvestia reports that both departments have rejected the idea of converting penal work camps into prisons along European lines. The newspaper explains that this decision was taken following a meeting of the Justice Ministry’s inter-departmental working group. The latter is now involved in reviewing and amending the basic principles of a framework for the development of the penal system (PS) up to 2020.

The working group adopted the final version of a revised text of the framework in mid-September which is to be submitted for Government approval. More than a dozen amendments have been included which has resulted in the complete removal of Clause 2: “Reforming institutions that administer punishment using the prison system and improving the organisational and structural system”, according to Izvestia’s FPS source.

A statement on prison reform issued in 2009 made it clear that the whole system of correctional labour institutions was to be abolished by 2020. Barrack camps were to be replaced by prisons operating different detention regimes, with an open camp for non-serious crime offenders. There was also to be an end to camps for minors. However, according to Izvestia, the federal budget cannot find the 1.8 trillion roubles needed to implement the reform.

Valentin Gefter, a member of the Justice Ministry’s working group and Director of the Institute for Human Rights, told the newspaper that there was still no consensus on whether it is necessary to have offenders in prisons in Russia. However, he stressed that the nation still needed to bring its prison system more in line with accepted international standards.

Gefter told Izvestia  that “a number of regions such as Krasnoyarsk district are harnessing their own resources to improve prison systems, an example that the Justice Ministry would do well to follow, and involves gradually rebuilding the camp structure by increasing the size of its living area. There are plans to reduce the number of inmates in a prisoner block from 100 to between 10 and 40. The necessary amendments to the Penal Code and internal rules to implement these changes have already been prepared. Rather less money is required for this reorganisation which can be met from within the budget.” Gefter also reiterated that FPS staff must be inspired with the “spirit of reform” and that there will be monitorung on behalf of civil society.

Author: Georgy Ivanushkin

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