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Pardons and Amnesties in Russia: Clarifying the Differences

NCJ Number
Todd Foglesong
Date Published
May 2002
10 pages
This document details the confusion in the terms pardon and amnesty when referring to the release of incarcerated mothers in Russian prisons.
In January 2002, the Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a proposal to pardon all incarcerated mothers. The announcement generated expectations of an imminent release of a large number of women from prison. It was announced that a pardon had already freed over 20,000 women and children. The proposed pardon was confused with the amnesty of November 2001, which has yet to release large numbers of prisoners. The "approval" of the proposal turned out to be a statement of policy preference with no immediate legal consequence. The origins of these expectations come from confusion about the new procedures for pardon, the intrigue surrounding the work of the former Commission on Pardon, and a misunderstanding of the relationship between pardons and the recent amnesty. It is unlikely that large numbers of convicted mothers will be pardoned in the next few months because rates of property crime among women appear to be high; and pardon commissions have little incentive to be indulgent of female offenders. The political context of the pardons is that Russia is beset by a wave of unsupervised juveniles and there is a mounting concern with crime and its connection with juvenile delinquency. But there are so few incarcerated mothers in relation to the number of delinquents that it is unreasonable to expect pardon commissions to release convicted mothers on the premise that supervision will reduce delinquency. Another factor that might reduce the incidence of pardons is due to the organization of the pardon commissions. Local governments bear the brunt of costs of post-release treatment of inmates. Localizing decisions about pardon is likely to counterbalance the national interest in release. 20 footnotes