Young Offenders Face Tough Time Starting Anew

Young Offenders Face Tough Time Starting Anew

Published: September 5, 2012 (Issue # 1725)


School-age inmates at the pre-trial detention center continue to study while they await their trial and sentence.

Seventeen-year-old Arman says he has no regrets about killing a man who insulted him and his family.

“I believe in justice: Everyone has to get their due for what they do,” says the teenager, who has been sentenced to eight years in prison for murder.

Arman is one of 20 juvenile inmates of the pre-trial detention center at 39 Ulitsa Lebedeva. Most of the young men get little help from the outside world, while some ended up behind bars in tragic circumstances.

“Some of them come from children’s homes, but mostly our prisoners do have parents — the problem is that the kids grew up in instable families, where drinking and domestic violence are routine,” said Vitaly Bodarev, head of the detention center.

On Sept. 1, the young prisoners received unexpected presents sent by Vitaly Milonov, a United Russia lawmaker at the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly, and Boris Panteleyev, head of the St. Petersburg branch of the Committee for Citizens’ Rights. Each inmate was given a plastic bag containing a stack of brightly colored exercise books, marker pens, tea, coffee and sweets. Inside was also a greeting card marking the occasion of September 1, which is celebrated in Russia as the Day of Knowledge. The greeting inside encouraged the young prisoners to devote no less attention to their intellectual development than to their physical training.

Most of the young prisoners in Bodyrev’s center are being charged with murder, attempted murder or armed robbery.

“There are no petty cases here,” he said. “In total, the detention center here boasts about 600 inmates, and I have to say that our psychologists spend more time with the 20 juveniles than with the rest of the crowd, because these kids are such difficult cases.”

“Yes, now that I have been sentenced I have to say that I would still have killed the bastard,” Arman said. “I had given the guy two warnings but he continued to pour shit over my family. I had to put a stop to it. Honor, dignity and principles are above everything for me.”

Arman plans to spend the eight-year sentence studying.

“I want to study foreign languages,” he said. “I want to speak several languages when I get out, it will help me in my new life.”


Most of the juvenile inmates are charged with murder or armed robbery.

Fourteen-year-old Daniil, whose current stay at the center is already his second, looks cheerful. He is being charged with joy-riding.

“I love cars and anything to do with them; I want to make them my job,” he said. “It was a bit silly of me to get into that car…I left my mobile phone there, stupidly… It sort of all got out of hand.”

Sixteen-year-old Ruslan is charged with murder. He has confessed and is awaiting his sentence. He says he defended the honor of his pregnant girlfriend, who was “insulted.” Ruslan refers to the woman as his wife. She is now the mother of his child.

“There was a farewell party for a guy who was being drafted into the army,” Ruslan said. “Some guy said a dirty thing about my wife, and I had to respond. A fight started, and I just beat the guy to death. I didn’t really want to kill him. It was a fight, and we were both deranged and got carried away. I hope I will never get into trouble again. I look at the picture of my baby, and I can’t wait to get out.”

How much use these tough-looking inmates would make of the marker-pens was unclear, but they were clearly pleased by the attention.

“I’m from Murmansk, so I don’t get any visitors,” said Alexander, 17. “I’ve been here for eight months now, as the investigation is still in progress, and I’m pleased to get this package.”

According to Bodarev, only about 8 percent of the juvenile inmates in his pre-trial detention center get acquitted.

Panteleyev, of the Committee for Citizens’ Rights, said once released from jail — especially after serving a term — former prisoners find it extremely difficult to start a new life.

“They see only obstacles around them, instead of help, as if the punishment was being extended,” he said. “They are denied jobs, and people often avoid them.”

Igor Potapenko, head of the St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast Penal Inspectorate, said a man is released from prison in the morning, and by the evening is already hungry. Not everyone has a place to lay their head or somewhere to get a meal.

 “Most of the prisoners lose any real links with the outside world,” he said. “Their families, friends and colleagues often don’t want to know them anymore. Only fellow criminal gang members may want to give them the time of day. We really ought to start thinking about the future of these people while they’re still in prison, to ensure they have some choices in their life.”

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