22.05.2000 | V. Chorny, mayor of the town of Artsiz, Odessa oblast

Introduction of privately owned prisons


The penitentiary system includes detention blocks and preliminary prisons, where the inmates are awaiting the trial. Thus, they are not criminals yet.

Those people, who, until the court decision must be considered respectable citizens, live in the inhumane conditions. It is impossible to separate people who have contagious diseases (including AIDS) from the healthy inmates. The cells abound in cockroaches, bedbugs and lice. No one of the convicts ever sees clean bedclothes. The cells are not ventilated, so the tobacco smoke, the miasma of unwashed bodies and everlasting filth create the unbearable atmosphere. The cells are cold in winter and hot in summer. The toilet seat is not partitioned from the cell, there is no water tap to wash. The food has not enough calories, to say nothing about its taste. The food is the same for everybody, regardless of the health and religious beliefs. The cells are overcrowded several times compared to the nominal capacity. The convicts suspected in different crimes are kept together, which causes fights, on the one hand, and criminal instruction, on the other. The convicts are forced to do different chores, without any account of their physical abilities and skills. The medical aid is virtual. The coercive inactivity results in emotional stresses and destruction of health.

The incarceration before court virtually became a legalized aid of the ODA. Investigating officers are interested in the cruel treatment of the convicts, which makes them often confess in real or imaginary crimes.

We believe that the way out of this dead end lies in creating privately owned prisons (POP). In POPs the convicts must pay for their upkeep, or it may be done by a third party. POPs must provide acceptable conditions of upkeep: clean ventilated cells, medical aid, acceptable food and other natural conditions. People, who are suspected in violent actions, ought not to be kept in POPs.

Creating POPs will solve another problem, which is becoming rather urgent. We mean claims handed by convicts on recompensing damage. The damages claimed are rather high, which is not surprising, taking into account the upkeep conditions. Practically, every convict released from the preliminary prison can sue the prison administration and win the suit.

Establishments, similar to the suggested POPs, exist in many countries. The experience of the USA shows that introduction of commercial prisons allows the economy of budget means and better upkeep of convicts than in state prisons. The economy of budget expenditures is especially important in our country, since our budget is very fragile.

The important question is where to place POPs. We believe that they must be situated in district centers. To reconstruct the existing state prisons is too expensive. Besides, it is practically impossible to retrain the personnel that has accustomed to ignore the human dignity of the convicts. In district centers, as the inheritance of the custom to build immense objects, there exists a lot of spacious buildings with the large adjoining territory, which are deserted now. The adjoining territory will facilitate guarding. The cost of vacant buildings and adjoining territory is negligibly small compared to the corresponding costs in larger towns.

There is a lot of jobless in district centers, so the labor costs much be less than the average pay of employees of the Ministry of Interior.

In district centers there are, as a rule, large hospitals, that work at about 50% of their capacity. The building of POPs will aid in getting jobs for the local medical personnel and will provide cheap medical aid for the convicts.

The cost of food, especially the retail prices, in district centers is substantially lower than in larger towns. District centers, as a rule, are close to the oblast center, so it will not be critical to take a suspect to the oblast center for the interrogation, etc.

Summing up, it is possible to keep a convict quite well for Hr 300 per month, and very often this money can be paid by the convict, or some third party, or charity.

Experimentally, I propose to create a POP in the town of Artsiz, Odessa oblast. We have a hospital for 700 beds, of which now only 200 are occupied. Recently the army garrison was disbanded, and there are many unused buildings, which can be occupied for POP. As to the starting expenditures, we can get credit from communal establishments and from private investors.

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