Chelyabinsk Prison Revolt Raises Question of Reform
Published: November 28, 2012 (Issue # 1737)
MOSCOW — A revolt at a maximum security prison in the Chelyabinsk region by prisoners complaining of corruption and abuse has ended, regional prison officials said in a statement Monday.
But the fallout appears to be just beginning, as prosecutors quickly opened a check into the incident, and two senior officials appeared to confirm the prisoners’ complaints.
Chelyabinsk region Governor Mikhail Yurevich admitted that the region’s prison system needs reform, a matter he blamed on the system’s former administrator, now deceased.
The prison system leads to an “enormous number of suicides,” Yurevich told Russian News Service radio Monday. He also said he had information about kickbacks in prisons.
National human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin said he had also received evidence of abuse and corruption at Prison No. 6 in the city of Kopeisk, Interfax reported Monday.
An initial check by prosecutors failed to confirm prisoners’ complaints of beatings, or reports of escapees, fatalities and evidence of bodily harm, the Prosecutor General’s Office said in an online statement Monday.
But prosecutors plan to conduct a full probe into the revolt, and Lukin said he would oversee his own.
“I’m extremely worried that a superficial investigation might cause the situation to deteriorate elsewhere, and something similar might happen at a different prison,” Lukin said.
Two hundred fifty prisoners revolted Saturday, demanding a more relaxed prison regime and the release of a prisoner from solitary confinement, prosecutors said.
A video taken Saturday showed prisoners standing on top of the prison with a banner that read, “Free people, help us! The administration is embezzling $ [sic]. They torture and humiliate.”
As of Monday, however, all prisoners at Prison No. 6 in the city of Kopeisk had returned to their blocks, and administrators are in complete control of the facility, prison officials said.
The revolt was accompanied by bloody clashes outside the prison between riot police and prisoner supporters, including relatives and ex-convicts.
Thirty people outside were detained for disturbing the peace, and eight riot police officers were hurt, police said.
About 30 relatives remained at the scene Monday afternoon, police said, but the situation had “stabilized.”