Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Every Tenth Russian has Been in Prison Since 1991, with Many First Offenders Becoming Professional Criminals as a Result, Duma Deputy Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 15 – Russia’s prisons are turning one-time violators of the law into professional criminals, a truly dangerous trend given that every tenth Russian has been in prison at least once since 1991 and that the current economic situation is driving ever more Russians to think about committing crimes, according to Duma deputy Vadim Solovyev.

            The deputy chairman of the Duma committee on constitutional law says that Moscow must address this situation by creating two kinds of prisons, one for first-time offenders and a second for those engaged in a life of crime, so that the first do not join the ranks of the second (

            Prisons are intended not only to punish but rehabilitate those who are incarcerated, he says, but all too often, Solovyev says, Russian prisons becoming training grounds for professional criminals given the power such people have within the prisons and the failure of the penal system to protect first-time offenders from such criminals.

            All too often, he says, Russians distinguish between serious crimes and minor ones, but they do not distinguish between those – “approximately 70 percent” – who have committed one crime and the 30 percent who are repeat offenders and commit by far the greatest number of crimes.

            When first-time offenders land in jail, “they are subjected to bestial psychological, ideological, and physical abuse. [And] willy-nilly, part of them acquire the habits of the criminal milieu and become professionals.”  Given how many Russians have been behind bars since 1991, prisons are becoming among the most important recruiting sites for professional criminals.

            This problem “must be solved,” Solovyev says, “especially given that the social-economic situation which gives rise to [first-time] crime is getting worse, the country is entering a crisis, and people are losing their jobs,” all of which make them more likely to consider criminal actions.

            “How prepared is the party of power to carry out reforms of the penal system?” the deputy asks rhetorically. “For me,” he says, “that is the question.  It is clear that the media must be encouraged to raise this important problem and form public opinion.” In that event, the Duma and Justice Ministry could do something.

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