Russia plans to build multi-purpose prison camp settlements. Commentaries by Ilya Shablinsky, Valery Borshchev and Sergei Pashin [Argumenty i fakty]
A person in a suit
Description automatically generated with medium confidence

14 October 2022

Sergei Pashin (pictured left) says: ‘This is a bad kind of ‘unification,’ when innocent people, who are only under detention to await trial, are lumped in together with those who have already been convicted.’

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Аргументы недели]

The Ministry of Justice plans to create prison camp settlements that will look like a real dystopia. Behind one barbed wire fence they plan to combine pre-trial detention centers, penal colonies of various types, industrial areas, and medical facilities. There they can also equip and prepare courtrooms in order to swiftly change the status of the accused to convicted, and, in so doing, reduce the transport of people.

In Kaluzhskaya region the first such project has already commenced. The Ministry of Economic Development document states that in this region “a multicolony of the Federal Penitentiary Service will be built, the area of which will be more than 100 hectares.” In the words of Minister of Justice Konstantin Chuichenko, during the implementation of this project, “all facilities for the work of courts, investigators, prosecutor’s offices, lawyers, and public organizations” will be created. Construction of state-owned facilities in Kaluzhskaya region is estimated to cost 12 billion rubles over the course of three to four years. This new type of prison camp city is planned to be designed for 3,000 people.

The Penal Enforcement System (PES) roadmap through 2030 refers to taking into account the opinions of regional authorities on “the relocation of PES institutions outside cities to areas with accessible communications and transportation logistics.” 

Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) member Ilya Shablinsky notes that “they want to move the pre-trial detention centers somewhere out of sight.”

“And for the relatives of the convicts, this will be, of course, just a disaster. And it is important for the convicts themselves that the facilities are in accessible places,” the expert stresses. According to him, hard-to-reach places make it easier for the administration to abuse their power: it will become more difficult for lawyers and the press to find out about problems and respond to complaints and egregious facts coming from these places.

Co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Valery Borshchev, supports his colleague’s opinion: “Everyone under one roof – this is a priori recognition that a person is guilty. That is to say, this is a strengthening of the repressive character of the entire Russian system.”

Retired federal judge Sergei Pashin says: “This is a bad kind of unification, when innocent people, who are only under detention to await trial, are lumped in together with those who have already been convicted.”

“Accordingly, security measures will be the same, and contact with the outside world, food, medical services – everything will be uniform,” he suspects.

Pashin also does not believe that the right conditions will be created for lawyers. According to him, since 1996 the Ministry of Justice has been in charge of pre-trial detention centres, but the lawyers of those on remand must still line up from six in the morning, in the cold and even then may be unable to get through to see their clients due to a lack of offices. “For the past 25 years we have seen such outrage conditions, and then suddenly they say: now we will use billions of state funds and there will be bliss. But if they didn’t provide it before, then why in the world will they now?” Sergei Pashin expresses his indignation. In his opinion, the creation of such projects is done primarily for the convenience of those in charge.

Translated by Alyssa Rider

Leave a Reply