Probation System in Russia Could Reduce Second Offences Committed by Former Prisoners
Experts, representatives of the federal executive authorities, and the heads of several Russian regions said during the session ‘The Essence of Probation: Prerequisites for Achieving a Reduction in Recidivism’, which was held during the 11th St. Petersburg International Legal Forum (SPILF), that the updated prisoner probation system that is scheduled to be launched in Russia in 2024 in an effort to provide comprehensive support to citizens who are released from prison will reduce the number of repeat offences.
The probation system for prisoners in Russia has enormous potential
“I am very impressed with the substance in our law. There is an understanding of which convicts are subject to probation and which structures handle this issue [...] I believe that the institution of probation, as it is customary for us today, should fall in the sphere of the state executive bodies since private organizations should only be admitted here with great caution,” Deputy of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Maria Butina said.
“Starting from 1 January 2024, we won’t be the only ones dealing with this issue. There are already a number of entities [handling] probation, such as the federal executive authorities and the regional state authorities. Starting from 1 January 2024, there will be two types [of probation] – executive and penitentiary. Executive probation applies to people who are sentenced to punishment without imprisonment. We deal with convicts who are in detention facilities as part of penitentiary probation,” Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS of Russia) Deputy Director Aleksey Girichev said.
Business in the Russian regions could become a starting point for the adaptation of former prisoners
“Businesses should be interested in using the [Federal Penitentiary Service] system. They have their own preferences: wages and a labour organization system [...] It’s important to not only ensure production at a corrective labour colony, it [also needs to] be a technologically advanced production facility,” Head of the Republic of Karelia Arthur Parfenchikov said.
“On the one hand, employers are currently short on manpower [...] We have several [secondary vocational education institutions] on the territory of correctional institutions. Do all employers want [such specialists]? Not everyone. So we started taking employers there in advance and introducing them to employees under their supervision who could come to them later. They are no longer afraid. We have examination centres that allow you to evaluate qualifications,” Head of the Republic of Mordovia Artem Zdunov said.
Difficulties in the employment and social adaptation of former prisoners
“After serving a criminal sentence, most people face serious difficulties and the ramifications of their conviction. Those sentenced to imprisonment make up a special group because they lose almost all social skills during the time when they serve their sentences,” Deputy Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation Vsevolod Vukolov said.
“In 2022, we assisted 20,000 convicts with preparing and posting C. V. on the Jobs in Russia portal. All these convicts have qualifications and education [...] Around 7.5% of them received responses, while the remaining 92.5% are people who are released and have no idea where they will find a job,” Girichev said.
High recidivism rate among ex-prisoners
“For several years, the Federal Penitentiary Service has been assisting and continues to assist and prepare convicts for release [...] At the time of release, the citizen is healthy, educated, and understands where he will live and where he can apply to resolve the employment issue [...] We released him, and then the person is lost. The recidivism rate in our country reaches 40% within five years and people return [to prison]: 4.53% returned within the first year after release,” Girichev said.
Create a unified probation system within the penitentiary bodies
“We must fully enact the law in 2024 and 2025. Considering the continued importance of the probation system in the Russian Federation, there will be several stages. We will have a probation system, which to some extent already exists at correctional facilities [...] Probation will only be used voluntarily [...] If we see that this system is working and attracting the attention of more convicts, we will achieve better results [...] And it’s very important that we plan to build a unified service,” Vukolov said.
“The Federal Penitentiary Service should be more open to Russian human rights activists who work in the country and they should be given the opportunity to use photography and video filming [...] I really liked the experience of the Tver Region [...] They organized a social hotel [...] The collection of feedback from citizens who are on probation also needs to be organized,” said Alexey Melnikov, Member of the Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights.
Improvements to the judicial system and labour market
“Our prison occupancy rate is 49%, and the isolation ward is overcrowded, so we need to improve issues related to the criminal process and legal proceedings in order to minimize the use of such a measure as arrest as much as possible [...] so that the time spent in custody is as short as possible,” Parfenchikov said.
“People who [...] are released should be visible to the labour market so that they can be integrated, not lost, receive help with reducing barriers, and return to the labour market as a full-fledged member of society,” Russian Federal Labour and Employment Service Deputy Director Denis Vasilyev said.