Russia: 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.

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