Skip to main content
news

Russian lawmakers finally move forward with legislation that could release 100,000 prisoners

After 10 years, the State Duma has adopted a second reading of legislation that would mean less time behind bars for Russians convicted of many crimes. The draft law recalculates how pretrial detention is weighed when determining how much time should be considered “already served” when suspects in pretrial detention are sentenced to time in prison. The legislation was first introduced in June 2008.

The bill’s explanatory note argues that pretrial detention in Russia is actually more onerous in many ways than typical imprisonment, given that detainees are not permitted long visits from friends and family or the opportunity to earn an income. The authors even cite rulings by the European Court of Human Rights stating that pretrial detention conditions should not be stricter than the punishment imposed on convicted criminals. Lawmakers’ remedy for this problem is retooling the way pretrial detention is weighed when determining a convict’s remaining sentence:

So what’s the recalculation? Under the draft law, one day in pretrial detention would be equal to one and a half days in a standard regime penal colony or a juvenile correctional facility. The exchange rate would jump to two days in a penal colony settlement. The old one-to-one coefficient would still apply to convicts placed in high-security prisons. A day’s house arrest would become equal to half a day in pretrial detention, making it equal to 0.75 days in a standard regime penal colony or juvenile center, or one full day in a penal colony settlement.

The law would not increase prison sentences for inmates who would be hurt by the new 0.75 coefficient, as Russia’s Criminal Code prohibits the worsening of prisoners’ conditions through the passage of new laws. If adopted, the law would take effect for inmates at juvenile correctional facilities and penal colony settlements within three months, and it would apply to all inmates within six months.

But there are a lot of exceptions. The old one-to-one coefficient will still apply in instances of terrorism; hostage-taking; plane, ship, or train hijacking; treason; espionage; international terrorism; threatening the life of a state official or public figure; seizure of power by force; armed rebellion; assaults on persons enjoying international protection; and large-scale drug possession, production, sale, or theft. The one-to-one formula will also be resuscitated for particularly egregious recidivists and persons sentenced to life imprisonment or 25 years in prison in place of the death penalty. Getting put in punitive confinement will also trigger a pretrial-detention recalculation: days in isolation cells will be subtracted from the “time-served” figure, though the legislation doesn’t specify exactly how this exception will work in practice.

According to the Federal Penitentiary Service, there were roughly 600,000 prisoners in Russia at the beginning of the year. Duma lawmakers previously estimated that the pretrial-detention recalculation would lead to the release of as many as 100,000 inmates.

Photo on front page: Pixabay