Correctional centers wanted to get rid of especially dangerous criminals

They have a bad effect on the rest of the contingent, the government believes

At an extraordinary plenary meeting, the State Duma adopted two bills in the first reading, which are designed to improve the situation in correctional centers where sentences in the form of forced labor: now these centers are filled with those who have committed especially serious crimes that have a bad effect on the rest of the convicts, the Ministry of Justice explains.

The government proposed to amend the Penitentiary and Criminal Codes. Their essence is that those convicted of especially serious crimes (punishments for them exceed 10 years in prison) and serving sentences in strict regime colonies, after serving half the term, will be able to apply for a change in the type of correctional institution, that is, for sending them to a colony-settlement, and after serving two-thirds of the term – on the replacement of punishment in the form of deprivation of liberty by forced labor or parole. “The gradual mitigation of punishment will contribute to a more successful preparation of such convicts for resocialization and return to society,” Deputy Minister of Justice Andrey Loginov told the deputies.

Forced labor as a form of punishment has been used in Russia since 2017. This is an alternative to imprisonment. They serve this sentence in special correctional centers, a part is withheld from the salary of the convict. A citizen who has committed a crime of small or medium gravity, as well as a serious crime, but for the first time, can be immediately sentenced to forced labor. In case of evasion of the convict from work or in case of malicious violation of the regime, the unserved part of the punishment is replaced by a colony. Now and until the day when the bills under discussion become laws, the right to replace a strict regime colony with forced labor is reserved for those convicted under especially serious articles who have served only half of their term in a strict regime colony. And about replacing a strict regime colony with a colony-settlement – after serving two-thirds of the term.

The results of this rule (“imbalance” called it by Mr. Loginov) are evident. According to the statistics of the Federal Penitentiary Service, especially dangerous criminals make up an increasing proportion of the inhabitants of correctional centers. This share is growing year by year at an alarming rate, and as of January 1, 2022, it reached 79% (7874 people out of 9969).

All convicts are kept together in correctional centers, “in connection with which repeatedly convicted persons of a criminal orientation have a negative impact on previously convicted persons, introducing them to the criminal subculture, which negatively affects the operational situation in institutions,” the explanatory note to one of the bills says. . As of January 1, 2022, almost two thousand convicted of especially grave crimes violated the procedure and conditions for serving a sentence, 49 committed repeated crimes right at the place of serving their sentence, and during 2021, 790 convicted of especially grave crimes, for whom the unserved part of imprisonment was replaced by forced labor , went back to the colonies.

“As of July 1, 2022, more than 88,000 convicted of especially serious crimes have already received the right to apply to the court with a request to replace the unserved part of the sentence with forced labor. That is, they have already served half the term. And if the courts start to satisfy these petitions today, it will turn out that the percentage of those convicted of especially serious crimes in correctional centers will be quite high,” the government representative frightened. “Quite high” is above 79%, you have to understand.

During the discussion, it turned out that many deputies consider it necessary to expand the list of articles of the Criminal Code, the conviction under which deprives the right to mitigate the regime of serving a sentence. Mikhail Delyagin (“SR”), in particular, was outraged why “love extends to corrupt officials in power, to all these werewolves in uniform and without, to these millionaire policemen and customs officers.” The first deputy head of the Committee on State Building and Legislation, Irina Pankina (ER), replied that the list could be adjusted for the second reading. “The committee believes that it should include new articles on treason and espionage, which were recently adopted and have already been signed by the president,” she said. However, in the conclusions of the committee on both bills, there is not a single comment or indication of the direction in which the texts can be corrected for the second reading.

Ksenia Goryacheva (“New People”) suggested that the government “look at the problem more broadly”, and asked “when the real work will begin to create a comprehensive, meaningful program of adaptation, psychological recovery of prisoners, and their socialization in society.” From the answer of Mr. Loginov it followed that not soon. “The Ministry of Justice has had enough, for a long time…because this is a very complicated topic, a law is being developed…on probation of persons serving sentences in the Russian Federation,” he said. “In the near future” the text of the draft law will be posted on the official portal for public discussion, Mr. Loginov continued, “from now on, work will begin on its approval and further consideration in the government before being submitted to the State Duma.”

By the way, the head of the Ministry of Justice Konstantin Chuychenko reported to President Putin back in January 2022 that such a bill had already been prepared and provides for the creation by mid-2023 of a special probation service that will prepare those released for life in the wild. Coordination of the text of the initiative with all interested departments, according to him, was “almost complete” at that time. President Putin approved this idea. But then, obviously, it was not up to that …

Speaking on behalf of the Communist Party faction, the first deputy head of the Committee on State Building and Legislation, Yuri Sinelshchikov, expressed regret that “these very complex bills” were decided to “slip through as soon as possible”, and they were not discussed in detail in the committee. (The committee meeting was held by poll.)

“Everything is not exactly as the speakers say,” he believes. Those convicted of especially serious crimes will have the right to apply to the court with a petition to change the regime of the correctional institution to a milder one, but later they will have the right to apply to the court with a petition for parole or to replace the punishment with a milder one, including forced labor, and “this will lead to the fact that such persons will be less than before in a strict regime colony, but their proportion will increase among the settlements in colonies, and decrease among persons serving forced labor.”

The second communists approve. But here's the first thing… In a number of ways, the colony-settlement and the correctional center are similar, and the contingent there is approximately the same, Mr. Sinelshchikov recalled: convicts stay without armed guards, but under supervision, live in special dormitories, are required to comply with internal regulations and work. Moreover, under the “liberalization” will fall convicted of 38 particularly serious offenses, including those convicted of murder, kidnapping, human trafficking, robbery, robbery, riots, etc., he recalled – that means citizens “with a pronounced criminal mindset personality” in the colonies-settlements will become more, and we will see there the same phenomena that the government hopes to get rid of or at least minimize in correctional centers.

Mr. Loginov concluded that the situation could be aggravated not by a draft law, but by a decision of the court, which makes a decision to mitigate the punishment or replace it with a milder one. Yes, not all correctional centers “meet our ideas of efficiency,” he admitted, but the concept for the development of the penitentiary system of the Russian Federation until 2030, approved by the government in April last year, pays “great attention” to this topic. Correctional centers are being actively built and equipped in many regions, contracts are being concluded with employers, and by the end of 2023, over 60,000 convicts will be able to serve forced labor in them, the deputy minister assured. As of July 1, 2022, there are already 13-14 thousand people in the centers, “we would like to rise to 30 thousand by the end of the year,” and improve the situation in them by reducing the number of especially dangerous criminals, he convinced the deputies. He left the question of colonies-settlements outside the brackets.

The second reading of the bills will probably take place no earlier than September.