The incarcerated must be able to get, according to the Constitution, secondary education


Dear friends!

We turn to you, to our colleagues in public activities. We know that most of you do your best for observing human rights in our country. Some of you work to improve the penitentiary system in Ukraine. During contacts with the workers of penitentiaries the NGO activists assert that they are natural allies with the penitentiaries’ personnel. We are sure that it is true. At present a situation is observed when we can demonstrate it in practice. We mean the absence of schools in the penitentiaries. Therefore, many incarcerated cannot realize their constitutional right for obtaining secondary education. Several years ago, due to the lack of financing, such schools, existing in the time of the USSR, were closed. You can learn the details from the appended letter to Vasyliy Kremen. We want to direct this letter to the Minister of Education on behalf of Donetsk ‘Memorial’. We suggest you to take part in the action for positive solution of this problem. We must organize a joint action as wide as it will be possible. You may partly or completely make use of the arguments and texts of the letter. We consider it essential if the Minister will get many letters of the similar content within a comparatively short time, in the beginning of the school year. We think that the suggested action will be a kind of control to estimate to which extent our declarations agree with our practical activities. Carrying out this action we will be able to assess our ability, as NGOs, to influence the power to take concrete decisions on the state level. We would like you to make the following steps. Direct the letter to the Minister not later that the second half of September. If you do not have time, direct you letter in October. Send a copy of your letter to the chairman of the State Department on penitentiaries Ivan V. Shtanko. We would like to get a copy too. Our address is: A. Bukalov, P0B 4863, Donetsk – 92, 83092. Chairman of Donetsk ‘Memorial’ Aleksandr Bukalov 12 August 2000, Donetsk

To the Minister of Education of Ukraine Mr. Vasyliy Kremen Ministry of Education of Ukraine Kyiv, 01135, 10 Peremogy Ave.

Copy: To the Head of the State Department of penitentiaries Ivan Shtanko Kyiv, 01024, 10 Bogomoltsa St.

Respected Mr. Minister!

We turn to you because of the state of teaching at schools in the penitentiaries of Ukraine. Our country finds itself at the complicated stage of transformation. One of the substantial factors is a noticeable degradation of the social state of the majority of our citizens. Due to it there ap-pear many negative consequences. In particular, we observe growth of crime. The obsolete, we should say, inadequate court practices still use clearly nonefficient ways of fighting the crime, putting criminals to the penitentiaries. Every year about 80 thousand citizens got there. So for the first half of the current year 42151 citizens were condemned to the incarceration, including 2464 minors. As a result, the number of the incarcerated in Ukraine grew almost three times during the years of independence, and the number of incarcerated sometimes leached 240 thousand. Amnesties enable to decrease the prison population for some time, but after half a year the previous status reconstructs. As studies show, in the whole world the incarcerated are the poor and badly educated people. Undoubtedly, the education factor is positively correlated with the law-abiding behavior of people. Besides, an educated person has much more chances to live without violating laws. On the contrary, a person without a profession and without secondary education has much less chances to earn enough for a dignified level of life without breaking law. That is why one may consider the education as a factor that diminishes the probability of committing crimes. It is even more important to get an adequate secondary education by people who have already committed crimes and appeared in a penitentiary. It should be noted that in the USSR the incarcerated had the right and the opportunity to get secondary education while staying behind the bars. Yet, several years ago schools in many penitentiaries were, to our great pity, closed. Today the question of the opportunity to get secondary education for people behind the bars has a quite new urgency. Nowadays tens of thousands of people without secondary education stay in prisons and colonies. Taking into consideration that now very often there is no job in colonies, the incarcerated have a lot of time for learning. However, they do not have the opportunity to learn. Thus they are deprived of their constitutional right for education, although verdicts do not deprive them of this right. Article 53 of the Constitution declares ‘the complete general secondary education is obligatory’. Besides, the situation with the education in penitentiaries is a violation of the European Prison Rules, which Ukraine, as a member of the Council of Europe, must obey. In Rule 81, in particular, it is said that ‘the education of the incarcerated must be integrated within the state system of education’. Special resolution of the Council of Europe R 89 (12) ‘ON education in prisons’ is dedicated to these problems. In our opinion, the image of Ukraine is sufficiently spoiled by the violation of many human rights, and it is very unpatriotic to worsen the situation also by the education problems. We are sure that if the state applies a punishment in the form of incarceration, then the state has a duty to be responsible for the conditions in which the incarcerated are kept. Thus, the responsibility for providing the opportunity for the incarcerated to get the secondary education belongs to the state, first of all, to the Ministry of Education. We are convinced that any steps in this direction must have the state scale. For realization of this program the corresponding expenditures must be introduced in the budget. We believe that concrete steps for fast improvement of the situation with getting secondary education by the incarcerated in the penitentiaries must be developed by specialists and representatives of the State Department of penitentiaries of Ukraine. It is important to solve this problem at once. We turn to you, respected Mr. Minister, with the request to realize all necessary efforts for the solution of the de-scribed problem in the nearest time. All citizen of Ukraine must have the right for education. We shall be very grateful to you, if you inform us on your attitude to the problem and on the concrete steps, which will be made by the Ministry of Education for the immediate improvement of the situation.

Head of the directorate of Donetsk ‘Memorial’

Aleksandr Bukalov

‘PL’ commentary
. In our opinion, colleagues from Donetsk set an important problem. The Kharkiv Group for human rights protection supports this initiative of Donetsk ‘Memorial’ and appeal to other NGOs to take part in the joint action.

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