Staunton, December 24 – Almost 25 years ago, Russia introduced a moratorium on the death penalty; and now, the only penalty available for those convicted of especially heinous and especially multiple capital crimes is confinement in one of eight prison camps where a life sentence means exactly that.
There are currently more than 2,000 inmates who hav been convicted of multiple murders, rapes, and terrorist actions, correspondents of the Lenta news agency who were recently allowed to visit two of these camps to see how those who “will never be released” live out their days (newvz.ru/info/173174.html and lenta.ru/photo/2019/12/25/zona/).
Both of these camps are in the Mordvin republic. In the first, there are 134 convicts found guilty of 658 murders. “On each of the doors” in the prison is “a card with a photograph of and information about the convict,” including the crimes he was judged guilty of committing lest anyone forget.
Some are held in groups of as large as four while others are kept in solitary confinement, depending on the jailors’ assessment of their psychological state and the possibilities that they will engage in violent activities. Many work in a sewing factory; when not doing so, they are free to read, write letters or listen to radio. IN a few cases, they have televisions.
In this and the other colony the Lenta journalists were allowed to visit, there is around-the-close video surveillance. Every place is covered by at least two cameras so there is no place where anything can occur that those monitoring the cameras can’t see. When prisoners are moved, they are accompanied by convoys of officers.
The majority of those sentenced to life in prison have been convicted of two or more murders. Their relatives are permitted to visit them twice a year. The visits themselves are as long as three days. Some inmates have even gotten married to outsiders after they landed in prison so that they will have visitors.
As far as reading matter is concerned, the Lenta journalists say, the lifers prefer religious, philosophical and adventure books.
The law allows prisoners who have been incarcerated no less than 25 years to seek parole, but as executions were ended more recently, few have taken advantage of this right and even fewer have been released. Consequently, for almost all, in Russia today, a life sentence means precisely that.