war crimes in Ukraine

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Amnesty-2000: cardinal changes in the penitentiary policy are needed

Aleksandr Bukalov, Donetsk
Perhaps the word AMNESTY is the most beautiful word for all the incarcerated. Several years ago three amnesties per year were conducted in Ukraine. Now, after the adoption of the corresponding law, it happens like birthday – once a year.

At a first glance, an amnesty is undoubtedly a positive event. However, if one considers the reasons and consequences of an amnesty, then it looks not so positive.

The words about humane state look rather cynical, if one tries to answer the question: why and to whom an amnesty is applied. Pre-term releases from punishment get those, who committed petty crimes. From the viewpoint of the incarcerated this means that an amnesty is applied to those, who could be convicted alternatively, without incarceration.

But the state (a humane state!) in the person of the judge decided to imprison the criminal. It separated him from the family and sent him to the company of criminals much more hardened than himself, to the conditions, where food is inadequate, where TB and other dangerous diseases reign without the opposition of the proper medical aid, where the cells are always overcrowded. Yet, every summer our country that wasted significant sums to upkeep the incarcerated is overwhelmed with humanism. And the state releases tens of thousands people. They all lost something essential: a family, job, and many of them acquired AIDS, TB and criminal habits and skills. An original humanism!

We remind, that about 80 thousand people are condemned to incarceration every year in Ukraine; about 59% (50 thousand) are get terms not larger than three years, that is they are incarcerated for petty crimes. This very category of offenders is mainly amnestied.

The amnesty statistics for recent years looks as follows.

In 1998 according to the amnesty 38500 persons were released from penitentiaries, next year the figure was about 19 thousand.

In 2000 the amnesty was conducted from 1 June to 31 August. According to the data of the State Penitentiary Directorate, cases of 38988 people were considered during this period. In particular, by court decisions:

the number of the released was 11944,

among them 942 women (the total number of the incarcerated women is 10 thousand);

2192 people got shortened terms of imprisonment;

lift of the punishment not connected with incarceration 23420 people, among them 7831 women;

the amnesty was not applied to 1432 brazen breakers of discipline.

According to the Law on the amnesty, the number of the released consisted of the following groups:

173 minors (the total number of incarcerated minors is about 3000),

494 persons having minor or handicapped children,

36 persons, who have parents older than 70 or parents-invalids of the 1st group, who need care,

55 old-age persons,

60 invalids of 1st and 2nd groups,

19 war veterans,

33 rescuers of the Chernobyl catastrophe,

755 ill with active form TB.

The Penitentiary Directorate developed and applied some procedures to facilitate finding jobs for the released. Local authorities were informed about every amnestied person for granting aid in getting residence and job.

As a result of these efforts, by the state of 1 September 2000, 6.7 thousand of the amnestied got propiska (residence permission), 3.4 thousand got jobs, among them 423 got jobs through labor registry offices. It is not difficult to count the opposite: the number of jobless and having no propiska. Where are they? What are they doing? How do they find food? It can be only guessed.

The amnesty of 2000 did not affect much the overcrowdness of penitentiaries. The number of the incarcerated by the end of the amnesty grew by 5%. Certainly, the overcrowdness would be even greater without the amnesty.

It is obvious from long ago that to diminish the load of the penitentiaries is possible only after the cardinal change in the punishment policy. First of all, it is necessary to increase the number of verdicts not related with the incarceration: fines, conditional incarceration, public works. The society will benefit from it, and the penitentiary personnel will terminate to be hostages of the archaic court practices.
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