Human Rights Issues in Eurasia / Правовые Вопросы В Регионах Евразии

Russia: Attempt to Empty Prisons Called a Big Mistake

Posted by Info on 24/03/2011

The Kremlin is taking a step toward reducing the number of prisoners, drafting a bill to ease punishments on crimes ranging from libel to smuggling and kidnapping.
The bill is the third set of legal amendments drafted after President Dmitry Medvedev initiated a campaign last year to make criminal legislation more humane.

The detention of white-collar crime suspects was banned last April, and minimal prison sentences were canceled for 68 criminal offenses — among them fraud, theft and robbery — earlier this month.

The new 83-page bill proposes abolishing prison terms for certain crimes or replacing them with alternative punishments.First-time convicts for economic crimes will not be jailed if they pay back six times the amount of damage they have caused.

People convicted of minor crimes and first-time felonies may get off with fines, house arrest or forced labor instead of prison.
The draft also proposes postponing sentences for drug users, who would be allowed to undergo treatment before going to jail.

The bill steps up considerably the authority of judges, who would decide at their own discretion whether to replace imprisonment with forced labor for certain crimes.
A judge would also be allowed to downgrade the gravity of a crime — leading to a softer penalty — in cases where the evidence favors a suspect.

The Federal Security Service opposes the decriminalization of illegal trafficking of consumer goods, but the FSB has issued no comment on the issue.
Constitutional Court aide Oleg Vagin, in a statement, criticized the proposal to grant judges the right to reduce gravity of crimes.

“My overall impression is that the draft was done by dilettantes who have no clue about criminal legislation,”
criminal lawyer Mikhail Kleimyonov said.
Viktor Luneyev, a crime researcher with 50 years of experience, said that the bill could have been “fudged up by uneducated people who are unaware of the real crime in the country.”

Lebedev opposed granting the judge the power to decide on the punishment, citing rampant corruption. “In current circumstances, any extension of the judge’s powers is a pro-corruption factor.”Instead, the criminal legislation should be made “as detailed as possible,” clearly establishing types of punishments for various crimes.

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