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Russia's Correctional System

NCJ Number
Corrections Compendium Volume: 28 Issue: 12 Dated: December 2003 Pages: 6-8
Gary Hill
Date Published
December 2003
3 pages
This article describes recent changes in the correctional system in Russia.
Vast changes have recently occurred in Russia’s correctional system, accompanying the move from communism to democracy. The former prison system under the socialist regime is described as harsh, with inmates housed in large facilities designed to hold inmates for long periods of time. Generally, the correctional facilities of the socialist regime were placed in remote areas with harsh weather conditions and the goal of confinement was to derive profit from the labor of inmates. On August 31, 1998, Russia transferred authority over the correctional system from the Ministry of the Interior to the Ministry of Justice as a condition of admission to the Council of Europe. The article describes the facilities for sentenced inmates, which currently number approximately 750,000. These inmates are housed in 749 correctional colonies, depending upon their level of security threat. Each correctional colony has three units with different types of treatment: general treatment for newcomers, light treatment for those who have committed no disciplinary infractions, and strict treatment for persistent disciplinary problems. Russia’s open-prison settlements are described as settlements in which inmates do not wear uniforms, there are few guards, and offenders live in dormitories or in rented apartments within the facilities boundaries. Men and women are housed in the same open-prison settlements and may live in these settlements with relatives. Persistent violators of the internal rules may be transferred to the more traditional correctional facilities. Next, prisons in Russia are described, which are different from the correctional colonies discussed earlier. Inmates are kept in permanently locked cells, which hold between 5 and 30 people. Two types of offenders are housed in prisons: those who have committed grave crimes that carry sentences of more than 5 years and those referred to prison from correctional colonies because of persistent rules violations. Finally, reforms in the correctional process are reviewed and include an extension of inmate rights in the domestic and production domains, extension of the guaranteed minimum privileges for inmates, and the introduction of programs for the re-education of inmates. These changes in the correctional system were spurred by Russia’s inclusion in the Council of Europe.