Sunday, April 9, 2023

Russian Prisons Doing Little to Rehabilitate Inmates and So Recidivists Outnumber First Time Offenders There by More than 20 Percent

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Apr. 4 – Compared to almost all other countries, Russia’s penal institutions do little to rehabilitate inmates and, as a result, those who pass through its prisons and camps are likely to continue a life of crime and return. At present, these recidivists outnumber first time offenders by 22 percent among adults and more among young people.

            In February, Vladimir Putin signed a new law “on probation” designed to change that (; but it is not slated to go into effect until 2024 – and most analysts of penal practice in Russia say that it faces enormous obstacles not only from the penal authorities but from society as a whole (

            The expert community points out that even the name of the Russian penal agency, the Federal Institution for Overseeing Punishment, calls attention to what those who run it think is most important, punishment not rehabilitation, and so they do little to help rehabilitate prisoners and reintegrate them into society.

            Instead, the FSIN is openly hostile to all NGOs who try to help with one exception: the Russian Orthodox Church, which FSIN managers see as useful to their agency because that denomination teaches the value of submission rather than those of how to live in a more open society.

            As a result of that attitude, the FSIN has become the most hostile government agency as far as NGOs is concerned and the number of groups still active has been reduced to a mere handful after an explosion of interest in the 1990s. Unfortunately, FSIN attitudes mirror those of Russian society which is more concerned with punishment than rehabilitation.

            That set of attitudes perhaps explains why the media devoted so little attention to Putin’s signature on the probation law. It simply isn’t a popular cause. But unless Russia can find a way to rehabilitate prisoners and especially youthful ones, it will face a growing army of ever more serious and violent criminals over time. 


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