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A person deprived of liberty is not deprived of the right to be a human being

Yuri Chumak, Kharkiv

On 7 April a press conference of Volodymir Butenko, the head of the Kharkiv regional branch of the State department of penitentiaries, was held in the press-center of the informational agency «Status Quo». The topic of the conference was «New priorities of penitentiary system».

I believe that it will be interesting to our readers, what the head of penitentiary department told to the journalists.

He began with a «joke»: I wish to all present and their relatives, he said, never get to us as «clients». The journalists silently agreed with him.

During the most part of the conference Mr. Butenko told about introduction of the new head of the State Department of penitentiaries of Ukraine, which introduction took place on 31 March and was conducted by President Viktor Yushchenko. Since that time this important agency is headed, on the all-Ukrainian level, by Vasyl Vasylevich, who has worked before as the first deputy of the company «Naftogaz Ukrainy». By the way, he is a member of the party «Congress of Ukrainian nationalists». The Ukrainian President organized the introduction as a work meeting (which, according to Butenko’s words, was the first meeting on such a high level). Yushchenko stated that a person deprived of liberty was not deprived of the right to be a human being. Recently the President has become acquainted with the conditions of convicts’ upkeep in the Korostinets colony and reckons that these conditions are awful. He does not believe that it is possible to reform a person in such conditions, to direct a convict to the way of improvement. So, it is urgently necessary to realize, within the shortest terms, the cardinal measures for fulfillment of the following tasks:

1. To liquidate overpopulation in colonies.

The President has pointed out that now in Ukraine there are 413 incarcerated for every 100 thousand of population. At the same time, such number in the developed European countries is only 60-100, and even in Moldova and Armenia this proportion is 2-2.5 times lower. The situation, when one incarcerated has less than 2 square meters (not less than 4 m2 in Europe), is inadmissible. Now new prison standards are worked out on the basis of European experience. Viktor Yushchenko pointed out that he did not want to build new prisons in Ukraine. In the opinion of the President, it is necessary to realize the strategy for reduction of the number of people staying behind the bars.

In this connection Volodymir Butenko remarked that his department in the Kharkiv region was preparing the corresponding propositions, which would be sent to the President up to 15 April.

2. Protection of health of prisoners.

By the words of the President, the situation is inadmissible, when a person, which has got behind the bars being healthy, is released sick and infirm.

Mr. Butenko told that in the Kharkiv region, as well as throughout Ukraine, the problem exists of the great number of prisoners with TB, AIDS and other infectious diseases. There is lack of needed medical drugs and qualified doctors. As a result, only this year 17 persons have died in the establishments of criminal-executive system, and 1.5 thousand of prisoners ill with active form of TB are registered.

«The Ministry of health protection must turn its face to the people, which serve their sentence. Hippocratic oath reads: to treat anybody!», emphasized Volodymir Butenko.

Mr. Butenko assured the journalists that his subordinates tried to make some steps for the improvement of this situation: new diagnostic equipment was installed in the colonies and the provision of medicaments also became better.

3. Improvement of nourishment of the incarcerated.

This task is closely connected with the second one. In the opinion of the President, it is necessary to take all necessary measures for the improvement of nourishment in penitentiaries.

By words of Volodymir Butenko, in 2002 only 2 hryvnas 13 kopecks per day were allotted for nourishment of one convict. Now the situation is not much better: today this sum is 2.97 hryvnas. «What can be bought for such scanty money?», asks Mr. Butenko, understanding that this question is rhetorical. Answering this question he tells that penitentiary establishments have already started to produce bread, which is 30-35% cheaper that in trading network. The 109th colony is, in fact, the «granary» of the entire criminal-executive network in the Kharkiv region: cereals are cultivated on 600 hectares in this colony, which allows to provide convicts with bread. The colony also cultivates vegetables.

Besides, Butenko believes, liquidation of the existing ungrounded limitations concerning the contents of food parcels passed by prisoner’s relatives would also improve the situation to a certain extent.

4. Solution of the problem of job for incarcerated.

As Viktor Yushchenko said «Idleness makes time longer».

So, general Butenko reckons that it is necessary to solve on the region level, jointly with the Kharkiv regional state administration and all interested structures, the question on provision with state orders of the enterprises, where the condemned work.

5. Solution of the problems of personnel.

At the above-mentioned meeting with top officials of the State department of penitentiaries of Ukraine the President declared that worthy people had to work in this system, and these people had to obtain the worthy salary.

It is also necessary to be very attentive to personnel working in penitentiary establishments, to their moral, business and professional features. The state, for its part, will, since April, increase their salaries: the minimal salary of a worker of this sphere will be 409 hryvnas.

Having told about the meeting with the President, Butenko started to answer the questions of representatives of mass media. In particular, by the request of journalist of radio «Liberty» Viktoria Marenich, he presented the detailed statistical information. Now about 17 thousands of convicts stay in 13 establishments of the criminal-executive system. Among them:

-  condemned for premeditated murder – 1943 persons;

-  For infliction of serious bodily injuries – 918;

-  For rape – 373;

-  For robbery – 1271;

-  For burglary – 1054;

-  For economic crimes – 5421;

-  For hooliganism – 488;

-  For military crimes – 5 (by the way, 1 prisoner serves sentence for espionage in favor of germany).

Among the total number of the condemned 7024 persons serve their sentence for the first time.

The number of invalids of the 3rd group in the establishments of the criminal-executive system in the Kharkiv region is 104, of the 1st and 2nd groups – 35.

There are 64 convicts (57 men and 7 women) condemned to life imprisonment.

Besides, more than 300 persons undergo the coercive treatment for alcoholism in the Khrolivskiy medical-labor preventorium (among them 80% have already stayed in penitentiary establishments). According to Butenko’s words, the decision about unreasonableness of keeping of alcoholics in the establishments of penitentiary system was taken as early as in Soviet times, but this practice is still applied. Human rights protectors believe that the institute of the coercive treatment for alcoholism, existing in Ukraine, does not meet the international norms of human rights and the functions of criminal-executive system.

I also dared to put a question to the general-lieutenant of the internal service. I asked, how the leisure of convicts was organized. Mr. Butenko depicted an optimistic cheerful situation: his personnel, he said, had refused from the «Soviet methods», they worked with the condemned not for reforming, but for realization of the «process of resocialization», grounded on individual work. By his words, a person, which stays in a colony, has 3-4 hours per day for leisure; during that time the prisoners have the right to watch TV, to indulge in sport and fancy-work, to go for consultation of psychologists or to visit church. If the convict continues his education, then his workday is even shorter. So, the picture is almost idyllic.

However, the present did not get any reasoned answer to one question. This question was put, with maximalism peculiar to young people, by Vladimir Noskov, a special correspondent of the radio «Era» in the Kharkiv region. He asked: why have you raised this problem only after the coming of new power? Whether you had not seen this problem before, and saw it only after Viktor Yushchenko outlined it?

The press conference has finished. We got certain information about the past. And it is interesting, whether some changes would take place, and whether these changes would be positive and would result in the improvement of situation with human rights in the establishments of criminal-executive system. The Kharkiv group for human rights protection will attentively monitor these processes.

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