Russia to Revise Crime, Penalty ; Parliament Is Expected to Approve a Prison Overhaul This Month That Could Free Thousands of Prisoners

By Weir, Fred | The Christian Science Monitor, January 9, 2001 | Go to article overview

Russia to Revise Crime, Penalty ; Parliament Is Expected to Approve a Prison Overhaul This Month That Could Free Thousands of Prisoners


Weir, Fred, The Christian Science Monitor


Russia, home to the world's largest prison population, is planning imminent changes to a penal code that many regard as unwieldy, often arbitrary and unfair.

But in the drive to improve justice, while saving money for the cash-strapped government, there are concerns that the overhaul could simply deposit hundreds of thousands of prisoners on the streets with no provisions for adjustment back into society.

Even critics concede the new law, which parliament is expected to pass this month, might signal the first-ever sweeping cleanup of Russia's overcrowded and brutality-plagued prisons. The law's proposed limits on pretrial detention, reduced sentences for petty crimes, and expansion of the probation system could lead to the release of as many as 350,000 prisoners within months.

"It is only half a step forward, but it will partially relieve some of the ugliest problems," says Maj. Gen. Sergei Vitsin, one of Russia's leading criminologists and an adviser to both the Kremlin and the Helsinki Group, a Russian human rights movement based in Moscow. "Our state is being pushed into this reform for urgent financial reasons, but the logic leads in a progressive direction."

More than 20 million Russians have passed through the prison system, one of the world's harshest, in the past three decades. One out of 4 Russian adults either has been in jail personally or had a family member incarcerated.

Despite hopes for improvement in the decade since the Soviet Union collapsed, human rights experts say conditions in the far- flung network of jails, prison camps, and detention centers, which house more than 1 million inmates, remain squalid and desperate.

"Nothing has changed," says Larissa Bogoraz, a former Soviet dissident who spent years in the gulag prison-camp system and now works as a human rights consultant. "Anyone who enters our prisons can expect to have no rights, no hope, not a shred of mercy."

It is hoped that the new law, which has already passed two parliamentary readings, will dramatically reduce overcrowding and in the short run, at least theoretically, enable the state to improve nutrition and living conditions for the remaining prisoners.

But an amnesty of 120,000 convicts last year proved insufficient and unsatisfactory. "An amnesty is a one-time measure that lets off steam, but does not address the underlying problems of our system," says Oleg Filimonov, deputy chief of Russia's department of corrections and the main author of the new law. "We need sustained reforms that will make our prisons more humane and fair, as well as more efficient."

Russia's pretrial detention centers currently house more than 300,000 suspects, who are often held for five years or even longer while police investigate their offenses. These jails - known as SIZO - have a reputation for brutality and neglect. "Police continued to torture detainees in order to secure confessions, using methods like beatings, asphyxiation, [and] electric shock ... as well as psychological intimidation," notes New York-based Human Rights Watch in its year 2000 report on Russia. Experts say SIZO inmates are often packed into cells with sitting-room only, forced to sleep in shifts, and given inadequate food, clothing, and medical care. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Russia to Revise Crime, Penalty ; Parliament Is Expected to Approve a Prison Overhaul This Month That Could Free Thousands of Prisoners
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.