May 06, 2005

Russian Labor Camps

Masha Gessen reports on the return of the show trial in Putin's Russia. Good article, though one paragraph in particular was—I'm naïve, sorry—shocking:
When Khodorkovsky was first arrested 18 months ago, a survey conducted by a Moscow newsweekly showed most entrepreneurs and politicians expected him to get away with a slap on the wrist. Now, courtroom reporters are taking bets on whether the oil tycoon will get six, eight, or ten years in a labor camp when the verdict is announced in mid-May
Russia still has labor camps? What kind? What do the prisoners do? A quick bit of googling doesn't yield anything overly descriptive (Mostly it's just pages about Soviet-era gulags), although here's some useful information from the Justice Department:
Every prisoner must work. Prisoners are paid for their labor according to the quality and quantity of their work and in compliance with the national economy's standards and rates. Due to the economic situation in 1993, over 200,000 prisoners were unemployed - there was no job for them. The new Constitution prohibits forced work, but it is not clear whether these provisions are being enforced.
Okay, so these aren't exactly gulags, though that "it is not clear" clause sounds ominous. Meanwhile, some fun incentives: "For good... labor, the convict may be encouraged by premiums and given permission to spend additional money for food and everyday goods, permission for additional short visits... and permission to receive additional mail and parcels." Okay, then. Most of Russia's prisoners are held in labor camps, 764 in all, known as ispravitelno-trudovich colonii, and there are also 13 prisons. If you want to read the gritty details about Russian prison conditions—the best place in the world to catch TB!—here's a good resource.
-- Brad Plumer 4:13 PM || ||