Podcast No. 86. Simon & Sergei – with Liudmila Alpern

This week our guest on the podcast is Liudmila Ilyinichna Alpern. Liudmilla Alpern is a prison researcher and observer. She used to work as deputy director of the Centre for Criminal Justice Reform where she was also head of the prison visiting programme. She has been a member of the Moscow Public Oversight Commission and is the author and developer of many prison projects, including a multi-year joint project by the Public Monitoring Commission, the Human Rights Ombudsman and the Council of Europe and the ‘Women in the Criminal Justice System’ project that won the French Human Rights Award in 2003.  Her publications include the book “Dream and Reality of Women’s Prisons [«Сон и явь женской тюрьмы»]- a comparative analysis and history of women’s prisons in Russia, Poland, Norway, USA and Spain.

Questions discussed in the podcast include: Becoming a human rights defender; The peculiarities of the Russian penitentiary system; The practice of torture; Comparing the penitentiary systems (prison conditions) in Russia and the USA; Special problems for prisoners in women’s penal colonies; Governing penal colonies; Trends towards reform and improvements; The future of the Russian penitentiary system and of human rights in general.

This podcast is in Russian. You can listen to it in full here:

You can also listen to the podcast on Podcasts.comSoundCloud,  Spotify  and  iTunes

The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera.

Given the length of the podcast, we have also divided it into four parts that you can listen to separately.

Part One: Early years; Prison systems in Russia in tsarist, Soviet and post-Soviet periods; Differences from the West; Current situation:

Part Two: Torture; Anthropology of prison systems; Comparing Russian and US prisons/penal colonies; The law in prisons and penal colonies:

Part Three: Women in prisons and penal colonies; Access to prisons and penal colonies; Public Oversight Commissions; Prison administrators and prison officers:

Part Four: The potential for reforms; the future of the prison system in Russia; the future of human rights in Russia:

Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: About 15 years ago in a secondhand bookstore in the city of Tomsk I bought the book ‘Dream and Reality of a Woman’s Prison’. The author was Liudmila Alpern. I had been looking for this book for a long time, and it was only in Tomsk that I got lucky. It was a tough read, but I read the book. And then I responded to Valentina Cherevatenko’s call whether anyone had Alpern’s book about the women’s penal colonies and gave this tome to Valentina. Some time later, I went to see Liudmila Alpern at the Centre for the Promotion of Criminal Justice Reform in Luchnikov Pereulok in Moscow. She told me very interestingly about her constructive cooperation with the head of the penal colony in Shakhovo, Afanasyev and the ‘chief gaoler of Orel’, Surovtsev, and about American prisons. Last week Simon Cosgrove and I spoke with Liudmila Alpern, an expert in her field. We discussed torture in Russian prisons today and prisons in the U.S., which Liudmila visited years ago. The podcast is available for listening and downloading on various platforms.  

Simon Cosgrove adds:  A summary of some of the week’s events in Russia relevant to human rights can be found on our website here.

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