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08.12.2000 | A. Bukalov, Donetsk

Is Ukraine advancing to a criminal society?

   

Ukraine is passing a peculiar period of its history. Difficulties of the social and economic transformations of the society are reflected in the judicial and penitentiary systems. Everybody speaks about the absence of real reforms both in economics and in many other spheres, including the judicial and penitentiary ones. The situation looks more vivid and more sad if one attracts figures.

The ’Donetsk Memorial’ has recently received statistical data on the activities of courts of the national level and from a number of regions for 1999. Table 1 brings together the data for 1997-99. These data enable us to draw some conclusions on existing tendencies (or the absence of some tendencies) in the system of crime justice in Ukraine. (The data for 1997 are taken from the Penitentiary State Department, while the data for the next two years are given by the Ministry of Justice.)

It follows from Table 1 that a tendency is observed to decreasing the total number of the condemned by 5 - 9% a year. Meanwhile the punishment by incarceration remains the basic one in crime punishments, and the proportion of this punishment continues to increase. This tendency is observed during the last decade. To illustrate the tendency we remind that in 1988 the number of the incarcerated was 29.4 thousand (32%), in 1992 it was 38.7 thousand (33.7%) and in 1998, according to Table 1, it was 86.4 thousand (37.2%). The new Penal Code, which could permit judges to apply alternative measures of punishment, has not been adopted yet. However, the existing PC also permits to apply the alternative measures, but, alas, our courts do not make use of these restricted facilities. It is true that the application of delayed and conditional verdicts is slightly growing, but it certainly cannot recompense the essential (more than by two times) reduction of application fines.

The number of condemned minors remains practically unchanged, although a small reduction is observed in the number of the incarcerated in 1999, compared with the previous year. At the same time, the immense absolute number - more than 9 thousand of minors for the last two years - is disturbing: who knows what proportion of them will be reformed after the incarceration and what proportion will become hardened criminals. I am afraid that when scores of thousands of youths return, our life will not become safer.

In 1999 slightly diminished but still remains enormous the number of convicted women: more than 67 thousand for two last years. One of the most alarming figures in the table is the number of condemned to incarceration for the term up to three years. Lately this proportion is sure 57 - 59%. This means that our penitentiaries get about 50 thousand inmates condemned for petty crimes. Many specialists, including workers of the penitentiary establishments, appear hostages of this short-sighted court practice. This specialists are sure that most of such culprits could be punished by alternative methods. As the result, many thousands of families would be preserved and many thousands of tragedies would be prevented.

Unfortunately, nobody has counted great financial damages inflicted to our beggarly state by such punishments. Very often the material damage caused by these people is infinitesimal compared to the cost of their upkeep in a colony during two or three years. Nowadays, the inmates of colonies are, as a rule, jobless. Thus, the upkeep of the army, consisting of almost 100 thousand parasites, lies on the weal shoulders of the Ukrainian economy. I do not risk to discuss the question what was the cause of their crimes: criminal nature or misery, often an attempt to save themselves from starvation.

The archaic and inhumane nature of the Ukrainian system of crime justice are proved by two kinds of figures in the table. First is the unnaturally low number of ’not guilty’ verdicts -less then one thousand a year. This means that if someone got into the jaws of the juridical machine, then the victim will be found guilty of something. The second alarming figure is the number of death penalties. In spite of the obligation of Ukraine to terminate absolute punishments in 1995, in spite of the stormy public discussions and in spite of the multiple reproaches of the Council of Europe, at last in spite of the moratorium on execution of death verdicts, our courts continued to rule about 120 -130 death verdicts a year. Analyzing the situation one gets an awful impression that our judicial system does not react to reality.

Table 1

 

1997

1998

1999

Number of the condemned

257,790

232,598

222,239

Among them number of the incarcerated, persons

% of the total number of the condemned

85,396

33.13

86,437

37.16

83,399

37.53

delayed verdicts, % of the total number of the condemned

19.4

21.63

22.07

conditional verdicts, %

no data

18.72

21.16

fines, %

9.04

5.96

3.95

number of the condemned minors, persons

% of the total number of the condemned

no data

18,165

7.81

17,652

7.94

Among them number of the incarcerated, persons

% of the total number of the condemned

% of the total number of the condemned minors

no data

4,945

5.72

27.2

4,444

5.33

25.2

number of the condemned women, persons

% of the total number of the condemned

no data

35,140

15.11

32,175

14.48

number of the incarcerated up to 1 year, persons

number of the incarcerated from 1 year to 2

number of the incarcerated from 2 years to 3

total number of the incarcerated up to 3 years

13,920

15,836

19,389

49,145

 

 

 

51,061

12,704

15,786

20,542

49,032

% of the incarcerated up to 3 years

57.5

59.07

58.79

number of . non-guilty. verdicts

% of the total number of the condemned

no data

884

0.34

774

0.34

number of death verdicts

128

131

120

’Donetsk memorial’ has some data for 1999 on separate oblasts provided by the Directorate of Justice. These data enable comparison of the work of courts in three regions of Ukraine: in the West (Lviv oblast), in the east (Donetsk oblast) and in the North (Chernigiv oblast). These data are presented in Table 2. The first striking feature is the number of condemned to incarceration divided by 100 thousand of the population. In the Donetsk oblast incarceration is 1.77 times more frequent than in the Lviv oblast, 1.5 times more than in the Chernigiv oblast and 1.25 times more as the mean index in Ukraine. The unexplainable rigor of the Donbass judges is reflected in another index - the proportion of the incarcerated in the total number of the condemned. It is 42% in the Donbass vs. 33 - 34% in the North and in the West. The number of minors condemned to incarceration is also larger in the Donbass. On the contrary, the culprits are fined more often in the West and in the North of Ukraine. The probability to be acquitted is also larger there. Besides, in 1999 no death penalties were ruled in these more humane regions. These data enable us to suppose that the majority of 120 death penalties were ruled in the East Ukraine too.

Table 2

 

Ukraine

Lviv oblast

Chernigiv oblast

Donetsk oblast

Number of the condemned

222,239

8,639

5,675

25,237

Among them number of the incarcerated, pers.

% of the total number of the condemned

per 100,000 population

83,399

37.53

168

3,008

34.82

120

1,906

33.59

140

10,597

42.0

212

delayed verdicts, % of the total number of the condemned

22.07

24.3

24.42

23.86

conditional verdicts, %

21.16

10.15

16.60

15.10

fines, %

3.95

6.24

4.30

3.45

number of the condemned minors, persons

% of the total number of the condemned

17,652

7.94

677

7.84

438

7.72

2,057

8.15

Among them number of the incarcerated, pers.

% of the total number of the condemned

4,444

5.33

170

5.65

no data

no data

number of the condemned women, persons

% of the total number of the condemned

32,175

14.48

1,238

14.33

783

13.80

3,634

14.40

number of the incarcerated up to 1 year, pers.

number of the incarcerated from 1 year to 2

number of the incarcerated from 2 years to 3

total number of the incarcerated up to 3 years

12,704

15,786

20,542

49,032

2,031

1,095

5,367

% of the incarcerated up to 3 years

58.79

67.52

57.45

50.6

number of ‘non-guilty’ verdicts

% of the total number of the condemned

774

0.348

36

0.42

34

0.60

91

0.36

number of death verdicts

120

0

0

no data

All these differences do not change the total picture of the system of punishments in our country. This system remains too cruel, this system cannot diminish the crime level in the country. The system remains the cruel tool of revenge instead of the system, whose main function is to guarantee safety. Any delay to reform it radically and move in the direction of the standards offered by the Council of Europe threatens the society by material and moral losses.

PL commentary. We suggest our readers to express their ideas and propositions concerning the court reform.

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