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27.01.2010 | Katya Kot

Prisoners to pay for humanization of prisons?

   

As reported, the Verkhovna Rada on 21 January 2010 passed a Law on amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code [CPC] and Penal Code (on ensuring protection of prisoners’ rights in penal institutions). The Law envisages a number of changes in prisoners’ conditions, including removal of any restrictions on the number of parcels prisoners may receive, of restrictions on phone calls, albeit from 2012, and certain concessions are introduced for life prisoners.

These are undoubtedly important and long-awaited improvements, bringing conditions closer to European standards. One could only welcome them, were it not for the change to Article 121 § 3 of the Penal Code. This norm had envisaged that “from prisoners who persistently shirk work, the cost of food, clothing, shoes, linen, communal, everyday and other services provided, shall be deducted from the money in their personal accounts. If there is no money in the prisoner’s account, the corrective colony has the right to file a civil claim with the court.”

This only concerned those prisoners who “persistently shirked work”, always assuming they had work.

The amendments have radically changed this, with Article 121 § 3 now reading:

“From prisoners who are not working (aside from people indicated in Article 115 § 4 of this Code), the cost of food, clothing, shoes, linen, communal, everyday and other services provided, shall be deducted from the money in their personal accounts. If there is no money in the prisoner’s account, the corrective colony has the right to file a civil claim with the court.”

With the entry into force of Law № 2460, penal administrations have the right to retrieve through the courts the cost of keeping all prisoners who are not working. And it is no longer important whether the penal institution (the State) is providing prisoners with the opportunity to earn money or not, whether the person wishes to work or not – all will have to pay for being in the colony. And from those prisoners who don’t have work, but do have money in their account, for example, from relatives, they will be able to deduct the cost of their keep. Where there is no money, the penal administration can turn to the court to have the money deducted after the prisoner’s release. And then, a person being released in present difficult conditions, sometimes without a roof over their head or the chance of finding one, without documents (the passport removed when arrested and not returned), will have to earn the money to pay for their former keep as prisoners, and all that on a court order!

It should be borne in mind that most prisoners are not without work at their choice, but because the State in 18 years has done virtually nothing to create a sufficient number of jobs in penal institutions. Now for this failure it is prisoners who will have to pay. This step by the Verkhovna Rada is in breach of Article 5 of the Penal Code which declares among principles of penal legislation the principle of mutual responsibility of State and prisoner. Making prisoners pay for the State’s failure to provide jobs is entirely irresponsible.

Furthermore, the real threat of such a court case by the administration could be a way of exerting pressure on a prisoner. It could also create the conditions for judges taking bribes to not send a person to prison, but assign another form of sentence.

Donetsk Memorial considers this change to  Article 121 § 3 of the Penal Code to be entirely unacceptable.  It is therefore calling on the President to veto the Law and suggest that the Verkhovna Rada completely abolish Article 121 § 3 of the Penal Code. We call on colleagues from other civic organizations to support us in this.

(slightly abridged)

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