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Andrei Babushkin: The All-Russia Civic Forum discusses prisons (7X7)

posted 28 Nov 2016, 05:21 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 Nov 2016, 05:36 ]
20 November 2016

By Andrei Babushkin, head of the Committee for Civil Rights, and member of the Presidential Human Rights Council

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Internet journal 7X7]

Photo: Moscow Helsinki Group

On 19 November 2016, at the International Trade Centre, swarms of human rights activists and civic activists came to the All-Russia Civic Forum to exchange opinions about problems of concern to civil society.

At the invitation of V.M. Gefter, I participated in a round table devoted to our prison affairs.

While polemicizing with a colleague who stated that the GULAG had fallen because it had become unprofitable, I remarked that the prison system had stopped being profitable in the summer of 1990, a year after prices were allowed to float. But this did not affect logging institutions, since GULITU [Main Administration of Logging Corrective Labour Institutions] stopped being profitable after 1992, when shipping costs rose.

After agreeing with the positions of Leonid Petrashis and Igor Kalyapin, I remarked that prison production can take on a human face only under the following conditions:

    - it is returned from being an institution under federal authority to local government;

    - competition for the allocation of state and municipal orders is abolished;

    - prison production managers are allowed to choose between noncompetitive state orders and competitive commercial orders;

    - term credits for labouring convicts are introduced (for example, six months of conscientious work counting for nine months of imprisonment);

    - salary deductions are limited to a maximum of 50%;

    - valuations are approved by a structure outside the FSIN [Federal Penitentiary Service];

    - labour guarantees are provided by the RF Labour Code, except for the voluntary nature of the labour;

    - municipal colony-settlements are introduced;

    - prison production is exempted from taxes.

At the same time, prison production reform must have as its goal a reduction in post-penitentiary recidivism, not profit.

Igor Kalypin pointed out that economic efficiency cannot be prison production’s goal, since this type of production can also be profitless, aimed at achieving social rather than economic goals.

Valentin Danilov remarked that correctional facilities should be engaged not in production but in training convicts for professions. Productive labour must be performed in settlement-styly prisons.

Regarding the Probation Service’s creation, I proposed at the first stage not to create the Probation Service as a state agency but to create an Interdepartmental Probationary Agreement, the participants in which would be judicial bodies, the MVD [Interior Ministry], the SK RF [Russian Investigative Committee], and the Russian FSIN. The mechanism would look approximately as follows: Art. 76 of the Russian Criminal Code on reconciliation with the victim by reparations for harm done and the absence of irrevocable consequences would be extended to crimes punishable by up to twelve years’ incarceration. The judicial-investigative agencies’ structure would be modified to acquire a judicial mediator service, that would perform reparation procedures and reduce the number of those sentenced to imprisonment by 5-10%. This would be the Penal-Executive Inspection.

Olga Kiyutsina gave a presentation on her assessment of the Russian FSIN’s work. She recounted how the FSIN received 269 billion roubles in 2015. Overexpenditure amounts to 33 billion roubles. The FSIN comes in sixth among government departments, with one and a half times less than the Education and Research Ministry and more than the Health Ministry. Between 2003 and 2015, the number of people released at the end of their sentence rose from 25% to more than 78%. In her opinion, the recidivism rate exceeded 60%.

Although crime dropped by a factor of 1.6, the number of prisoners dropped by a factor of only 1.2. Half a million roubles is spent on a single prisoner, of which 80% is spent on employees. 22% of personnel in the Penitentiary System institutions do not show up and work outside its boundaries. There are 27,000 medics in the penitentiary institutions, or about 10% of all employees. Convicts’ salaries dropped from 176 roubles in 2013 to 173 roubles in 2015. In the Open Government ratings, the FSIN comes in thirty-sixth out of 41, while the Defence Ministry comes in first and the MVD sixteenth.

I liked Kiyutsina’s methodology; however, in the FSIN’s defense, I drew her attention to a few discrepancies in her figures and conclusions. For example, how could the medical indexes have deteriorated if annual mortality declined by 4%?

Afterward the All-Russia Civic Forum held a roundtable on public oversight and the work of the Public Oversight Commissions, but since the organizers had not invited me, I didn’t bore them with my presence.

Translated by Marian Schwartz