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Aug 11, 2022
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Broom instead of bunks: business will be offered to employ prisoners

Broom instead of bunks: business will be offered to employ prisoners

Photo: Sergey Savostyanov / TASS

Delovaya Rossiya launched a survey in 85 constituent entities of the Russian Federation on whether entrepreneurs are ready to use the labor of prisoners. The organization believes that with the proper involvement of business, up to 100,000 people will be able to replace a prison term with forced labor. Thus, according to the authors of the survey, it is possible to kill two birds with one stone – both to solve the problem of labor resources, and to save people with light articles from the harmful effects of places of detention.

“Developing an appropriate network of correctional centers and stimulating businesses to cooperate with the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) will open up a new opportunity to attract additional workforce throughout our country and significantly reduce recidivism,” the head of the Expert Center for Criminal Law Policy told RIA Novosti. and execution of judicial acts of “Business Russia” Ekaterina Avdeeva.

According to her, such areas as construction, agriculture, forestry, mining and clothing production can become the main areas of interest. At the same time, convicts will have a chance to keep their jobs and receive a competitive salary after the completion of the term of work. The initiative may become one of the vectors for the development of the probation law, which is currently being developed in the Russian Federation.

In the Ministry of Justice, by the way, the idea has already been supported – according to the department, now more than 180 thousand convicts in Russia have the right to replace imprisonment with forced labor. Today in Russia there are 220 correctional centers with the ability to accommodate over 20,000 convicts, said the Deputy Minister of Justice Vsevolod Vukolov.

“The creation of correctional centers is a very promising direction, since here we are not only unloading the penitentiary system, but also enabling those convicted under non-serious articles to return to normal life ahead of schedule, renew ties with their families, and avoid the harmful influence of the prison subculture. The Ministry of Justice and the Federal Penitentiary Service are implementing this project together with business associations and regional leaders,” Vukolov said.

The idea of ​​using the labor of prisoners in the economy has recently arisen and discussed not for the first time. Last year, the Federal Penitentiary Service signed an agreement of intent to use the labor of convicts for the construction of the second line of the Baikal-Amur Mainline (BAM). Human rights activists then warned that there was a risk that mini-colonies could appear at construction sites, in which violence and extortion would flourish. On the other hand, the idea can work if convicts are paid a normal salary and sent to the construction site voluntarily.

Use the labor of prisoners at facilities where there are not enough labor migrants, the director of the Federal Penitentiary Service himself suggested Alexander Kalashnikov. According to him, “it will not be a Gulag, but new worthy conditions.” In January 2022 President Vladimir Putin supported the idea to replace the prison term with corrective labor for 100 thousand convicts.

In Delovaya Rossiya, we are not talking about construction projects, but, in principle, about replacing a short term with corrective labor. This practice, in one form or another, is widespread in the West. In Poland, for example, some convicts live in prison, but work outside its walls – in public utilities, agricultural enterprises, even in production. Companies that employ such workers receive benefits from the state.

But if prisoners under light articles are likely to be happy to replace the real term with corrective labor (especially if it is not as hard work as the construction of BAM), then the question remains whether the entrepreneurs themselves will want this. It is one thing for government projects where supervision and control can be ensured, and another for private business.

Head of the Center for Settlement of Social Conflicts, Chairman of the Collegium of Mediators at the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Moscow Region Oleg Ivanov believes that among businessmen there will be enough willing to accept convicts under light articles, especially since they will have an incentive to do their job well.

“It is beneficial to all three parties. First, to the state – we have a shortage of our own labor force, so we attract migrants from Central Asia and other regions. Secondly, to business, because, as it seems to me, people who will work in such industries will try to get decent pay or reduce their term. Finally, it is in the interests of the convicts themselves if they receive a salary corresponding to the traditional labor market.

In addition, work is an important part of human life. When he works, he does not have enough time to engage in anti-social activities, which, of course, exist in places of detention. It seems to me that this is the right decision, it remains to organize everything accordingly.

“SP”: – But is it necessary for business?

I think business will be interested in this. It is one thing to attract migrants and obtain various permits for them, to settle them somewhere, to take care of social life. And another thing is to take an employee with whom there are no such problems. All this will be handled by the FSIN. It seems to me that business will be more interested in attracting certain types of prisoners than migrants.

Attorney, Director of the Moscow Collegium of Advocates Liptser, Stavitskaya and Partners Dmitry Agranovsky believes that replacing the term with corrective labor can reduce the number of relapses.

— I support this idea. People will be able to earn the money they need in order to socialize in society after the expiration of the term, or to compensate victims of civil suits. This is a Soviet practice that worked well, and we need to return to it.

I do not understand the arguments of the opponents of this idea. They say something about the Gulag, but in fact, now the problem is precisely that the prisoners do not have work, because often work in colonies is not economically profitable. Can you imagine what happens when prisoners in the colonies are left to their own devices, they have nothing to do and they communicate only with each other? What will they teach each other? There can be no question of any correction and rehabilitation here. In Soviet times, when a person was released, he had some money in his account, he had the opportunity to get a job, get housing. He socialized. And now it’s just a candidate for a second term, which is why we have such a high relapse rate.

“SP”: – But how to organize it technically, will the business be ready to accept such workers?

– I think there will always be a business that is ready to employ convicts. In the US, there are even private prisons where people serve their sentences. It’s just that we have the phrase “labor of prisoners” since the 90s, when the destruction of our country was based on stories about repressions, for some it sounds scary and has a negative connotation. In fact, the work of prisoners is much better than its absence. When they are not busy in production, it is really scary. They have nothing to occupy themselves and entertain themselves, there can be no talk of any re-education.

There is a very wide range of businesses where convicts under light articles could be employed. This is not necessarily difficult work like a forest dump. And if these are people with light articles who are also on the verge of parole, they have a good incentive to work efficiently. So, it seems to me that this idea should be promoted and studied, not dismissed from it. In the same USA, there are practically no state-owned enterprises, so there the employment of convicts is carried out precisely through business. In this sense, there is a large world experience that needs to be studied and adapted to our realities. I don’t see any barriers to this.

Less enthusiastic about the idea Chairman of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia Mikhail Shmakovwho told Free Press that, unlike the situation in 2021, when a significant part of migrants left Russia due to the coronavirus pandemic and the depreciation of the ruble, now we do not have a shortage of workers. Indeed, according to the migration statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the second quarter of 2022, a record number of migrants came to Russia to work – 3.12 million people. Last year, 2.34 million people crossed the border during the same period.

I don’t think this is the most pressing issue right now. We have prisoners as a result of a special operation in Ukraine, their number already reaches tens of thousands. So they should be used in forced labor, and not even asked about anything. Naturally, they must be accompanied by security and have an appropriate daily routine.

But it is probably possible to simply use the labor of prisoners. This was practiced in the Soviet Union. But I would like to emphasize that we do not currently have a shortage of labor, on the contrary, we have a shortage of jobs. Those prisoners who wish to work are employed inside their correctional facilities. I believe that this is a fairly effective use of them.

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