MOSCOW, February 15 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s prison service said Friday that it is creating a trading house to sell wares made by inmates.
The Federal Penitentiary Service said in a statement that setting up the marketplace to place orders and sell goods will create a link between government agencies and product manufacturers.
Officials did not disclose in what way revenue from the sale of the products is to be used.
Sberbank, the country’s largest bank, will provide credit to finance the venture, the penitentiary service said.
Oleg Korshunov, who heads the prison service’s economic and financial department, says penitentiary inmates produce over 100,000 kinds of goods, ranging from uniforms and shoes to kitchenware and furniture.
Jail labor is used by governments around the world to profit from the manpower of incarcerated criminals, although the practice has ignited controversy in light of allegations that prisoners are forced to work unreasonably long hours for pitiful wages.
Claims of similar abuses in Russia have most recently been made by Pussy Riot punk band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who was released from prison in December after serving almost two years of a jail sentence over an anti-government protest in a Moscow cathedral. In her accounts of her time in a labor camp, Tolokonnikova described inmates being forced to work 17-hour days sewing police uniforms for about 30 rubles ($1) a month.
The International Center for Prison Studies estimated that there were about 681,000 prisoners in Russian jails in 2013.