Amid ongoing disputes about whether a special economic zone and a local Las Vegas will be created in Crimea, the Russian government has already taken care of Russifying local prisons. Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev, who recently visited Crimea, ordered two corrective labor colonies and a settlement colony as well as a penal inspection of the regional branch of the Federal Penitentiary Service to be established as soon as this summer. The current leadership of prisons explained that the prime minister was not talking about building new prisons, but his order obliged them to prepare documents by June 1, enabling existing prisons of the peninsula to be included into the new register within the following month.
According to the decree of the Russian government, Crimea will have high-security correctional labor colony No. 1 established on the basis of the current institution in Kerch with 485 employee positions, correctional labor colony No. 2 established on the basis of the current institution in Simferopol with 235 positions, and settlement colony No. 1 established also in Kerch with 60 positions. They will hold persons sentenced by the courts on the peninsula and throughout Russia. Crimea will also have a penal inspection of the regional branch of the Federal Penitentiary Service established with 187 positions, which is now housed in Feodosia. Its main task is defined as conducting correctional work with convicts who are not isolated from society. Lawyer Viktor Kriuchkov told the press: “The Republic of Crimea has always had prisons holding convicts who committed crimes in Crimea. Where do we send them now? Does anyone believe that crime has been defeated in Crimea? As it is obviously not so, Crimea has a colony for those convicted for serious crimes for the first time in Kerch, which city houses also a settlement colony for those convicted of minor crimes, and there is a colony for repeat offenders in Simferopol. In addition, there is a remand prison in Simferopol and detention centers in every town throughout Crimea.”
However, as current prison employees explained to The Day on condition of anonymity, the new transformation of prisons is popular with neither prisoners nor staff, because the Russian penal legislation is significantly different from the Ukrainian one, and the real prison practice is even more different. Penitentiary institutions in Russia remain largely continuators of the Soviet system, described by Alexander Solzhenitsyn in his story One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, while Ukrainian prisons were already implementing, with the help of international organizations, the European practice of re-educating convicts. Russian prisons are still punitive rather than educational in nature. Now, what is in fact former Russian prisons (they were built before the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine) will again go to Russian control and, therefore, Ukrainian period’s work on their humanization will be just lost.