Fewer Russians ending up in pre-trial cells – officials

The number of people in pre-trial detention has dropped significantly in the last ten years, says Russia’s Prison Service.

There are around 107,800 people awaiting trial who are not being kept in pre-trial detention, the authorities told journalists. This is almost 20 per cent less than in January 2009’s figure of 133,200.

“Pre-trial isolators are only 90.3 per cent full,” the service’s official told Itar-Tass news agency. “Back in 2001, they were 200 per cent full.”

Prison deaths are also down: while 401 people died in pre-trial detention centers in 2009, the first nine months of 2011 resulted in 258 deaths.

The trend is being linked with President Medvedev’s radical reform of the judicial system that was launched three years ago. Ever since then, prison statistics have been going down.

The president proposed setting economic criminals free once they admit their guilt and as long as they are ready to compensate for the damage they have caused. Economic criminals, he believes, should not face criminal responsibility for their wrongdoings and should not be kept in pre-trial detention.

The Prison Service says the number of pre-trial detention centers may also be reduced, as the reform could transform them into new types of prisons.

Legal experts, however, are less impressed by the promising figures.

“Judges are often afraid of letting people go home rather than putting them in pre-trial detention centres,” Evgeny Arkhipov, from the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights, told RT. “It’s because the judges bear a personal responsibility for these people. If they try to escape here in Russia, the judge will be the first to blame. So I propose changing the very mechanism of control over people under investigation.”

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