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Gulag 2.0? Russia's Bringing Back Forced Labor for Criminals

The Russian government has announced it will begin using a provision in the penal code allowing a sentence of compulsory labor as an alternative to imprisonment

Russia will start using compulsory labor as a new type of criminal punishment from 2017, Deputy Director of the Federal Penitentiary Service Valery Maximenko told TASS on Oct. 4.

According to Maximenko, "this is yet another alternative to the deprivation of freedom."

"Compulsory works and the stay at correctional centers … can be compared to the work of persons on rotational shifts, working far away from their homes and living in hostels. There are only few restrictions - they cannot choose work on their own or leave the correctional center without the administration’s permission," the deputy head of the Federal Penitentiary Service said.

"There are actually no other restrictions - they live in ordinary hostels and, once they serve a third of their punishment term, convicts may be permitted to live outside the center with their families but within a municipality where the correctional center is located," he added.

After the court passes its verdict, convicts go to the correctional center on their own to work under a labor contract. A convict can use a mobile phone and the Internet. Convicts who fall ill have the right to turn to doctors under a medical policy. They are also entitled to an 18-day vacation after the first six months of work. By a court decision, the state will retain from 5 percent to 20 percent of the convict’s wages. Convicts will also have to reimburse the cost of living in a hostel and pay under lawsuits for damage recovery.

First correctional centers will open in 2017

Russia’s Penitentiary Service will open the first four correctional centers from January 1, 2017 on the basis of penal colonies being reformed in the Tyumen Region (Ishim), the Stavropol Territory (Georgiyevsk), the Tambov Region (the settlement of Zelyony) and the Primorye Territory (Ussuriysk).

Also, correctional centers for convicts on compulsory labor will open in Bashkiria (Ufa), the Trans-Baikal Territory (Krasnokamensk), the Samara Region (Volzhskiy), the Smolensk Region (Anokhovo), the Arkhangelsk Region (Severoonezhsk), the Novosibirsk Region (Novosibirsk) and in the Republic of Karelia (Segezha).

"Already at the first stage, the possibility to use this type of punishment will be provided in all of the Russian federal districts and 896 places will appear for persons convicted to serve this type of punishment," Maximenko said.

"Then, we plan to open them in those regions where there will be the largest readiness to provide work for convicts," he added.

Taking convicts’ work qualification into account

The Federal Penitentiary Service will seek to employ convicts using their professional skills. At the same time, this will depend on vacancies on the labor market and on employers. To a larger extent, such convicts will be employed in the sector of unskilled labor where migrants more frequently work today. The Federal Penitentiary Service will study the requirements of enterprises and municipalities for workforce.

‘We’ll be able to provide convicts with living accommodation but much depends on municipalities - on their requirements for labor," he said.

The provisions of Russia’s Labor Code will apply to convicts actually in full, except for the right to resign or a vacation.

Correctional works as a type of punishment were included in Russia’s Criminal Code back in late 2011 but have not been used to date. Such punishment is stipulated in 186 articles of Russia’s Criminal Code almost under all types of non-serious crimes as an alternative to a penal colony, and also relative to the persons who have committed a grave crime for the first time (except for drugs-related crimes).

This punishment may not apply to underage persons, disabled persons, pregnant women, and also persons who have reached their retirement age, and servicemen.

Source: RBTH
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