Saturday, May 22, 2010

Russia Upgrades Penal Colonies

"In Russian prisons, the inmates are divided into barracks housing a hundred or so men without regard to the severity of their crimes. At night, a guard locks the door and walks away, leaving first-time offenders and people convicted of nonviolent crimes to fend for themselves in a crowd of gang members, hit men and other career criminals. Beginning this year, however, first-time offenders may no longer have to live in fear. In the first major effort to upgrade a prison system that has changed little since Stalin established it more than 70 years ago, career criminals will be separated from the general prison population and housed in new prisons with cellblocks, rather than barracks. ... Common barracks are unusual outside the former Soviet Union and parts of Africa, according to a London-based advocacy group, Penal Reform International. Western European and American correctional institutions typically rely on large cellblocks, with a few inmates to a cell. ... Low-cost and high-volume, they are modest upgrades of the camps of the 1930s to 1950s and hold the second largest per capita inmate population in the world, trailing only the [US]. ... Under the plan, some sites will be renamed 'settlement colonies.' a sort of minimum security prison. Hardened prisoners will be moved to cellblocks, though only just over 2,700 inmates live in cells in Russia today. ... By 2016, prison officials say, they intend to separate the most violent first-time offenders from petty criminals, and by 2020 move them and the recidivists into new prisons with cellblocks. ... The degraded do menial chores, like cleaning bathrooms, and are sexually abused, Mr. [Kiril] Kharnuzhin said. Men convicted of child molesting and former policemen automatically tumble into this caste, but most other inmates obviously try to avoid it", Andrew Kramer at the NYT, 23 March 2010, link:

Ruth Bader Ginsburg please note. Russia's prisons may be more enlightened than California's.

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