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17.06.2011

Another dubious lead for Ukraine – the number of prisoners

   

The journal Korrespondent writes that Ukraine is driving itself into a dead end, ignoring the best international experience of fighting crime, especially experience in Scandinavian countries.

One in four prisoners in Ukraine is behind bars for theft, with this often on a minor scale. There are even people imprisoned for economic offences which in the entire civilized world are logically punished through fines or confiscation of property.

As a result of such harsh policy the country has one of the highest ratios of prisoners per head of population in Europe. The Ukrainian figure of 338 prisoners per 100 thousand head of population is only beaten by Russia (570); Georgia (538) and Belarus (385).

What is more, the present regime is doing everything to overtake Belarus: last year the number of prisoners in Ukraine rose by 4.2%, this being a record for the last 11 years. There are now 154 thousand prisoners in Ukraine’s penal colonies.

Vitaly Khvedchuk, the Chief Psychologist of the State Penitentiary Service which is in charge of colonies and similar institutions asserts that the government is deliberately using harsh methods of punishment to try to protect society and stop the increase in crime.

The paradox, however, is that the fuller the prisons become, the more society becomes criminalized and the larger the number of crimes. Last year, along with the above-mentioned increase in prisoners, there was a rise in crime of 15%

It is worth noting that this increase may or may not reflect the real situation. Last year many specialists pointed to new and fundamentally flawed methods of reporting and criteria for assessment raising their long discredited head under the new management of Minister Anatoly Mohylyov.  – translator.

The publication points out that Ukraine is an excellent illustration of a European trend showing that countries with a low ratio of prisoners also have a low percentage of serious crimes, such as murder. And, unfortunately, vice versa.

The rising number of prisoners is also an economic burden with the level of expenditure for the penitentiary system having risen last year by 200 million UAH, to 2.5 billion.

The well-known Norwegian criminologist, Nils Christie told Korrespondent that any country that tries to fight crime by building prisons or filling the old ones is doomed to failure.  Ukraine, he advises, should study European experience and make a penal system which is humane. The Scandinavian experience confirms the wisdom of this: for 100 thousand head of population there are only 73 prisoners. The number of murders in Norway is 10 times lower than in Ukraine.

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