The conditions of those kept in open correctional facilities serving so-called "labor" penalties do not meet legal demands
The shortcomings of the open correctional facilities that have been publicized by the Belarusian human rights activists and oppositionists for years now have finally been revealed by the Republican Procurator's Office, reported Radio Liberty.
In the open correctional facilities more than 7 thousand people do "labor" sentences, which is almost every fifth prisoner. The Procurator's Office of Belarus examined the conditions of these people. It found out that the numerous "labor" settlements in Belarus are overcrowded, the conditions there do not meet the law demands, many of the prisoners do not have a steady job or receive their pay in time.
The human rights activists, the opposition and the independent media in Belarus have long spoke of what the procurator's office has finally acknowledged: in some of the open type facilities, where the conditions should be more humane, the prisoners have a more difficult time than in prisons and correctional camps. Hrodna journalist Mikola Markievich spent half a year in Asipovichy for the so-called "libel on the President". The "labor" settlement there is believed to be one of the best ones in Belarus, but this is exactly why you can imagine what is going on in the worse ones...
"These "labor" settlements are typically in small district towns with high unemployment, where an ordinary person cannot find a job, to say nothing of a prisoner. This is a barbaric situation. Especially for those who do not have any relations or friends to support them. I knew people who were dying of hunger. They would walk barefooted, sleep without linen. Those sentenced to "labor" sentences miust cover all the expenses out of their own pocket, and how can he do that?" - said Mr. Markievich. Apart from other things he underscored one particularity of the open correctional facilities that he observed personnaly – their role in the distribution of criminal traditions: "There are people released from prisons, whose punishment was made less severe, who meet young people from the countryside. This is just transfer of criminal experience, a true school of criminal science".
The board of the Republican Procurator's Office that considered the "labor" settlement situation at a special session decided to eliminate the shortcomings by adopting two measures. First, increase the responsibility of the officials in charge and even punish those for neglect. Second, the members of the procurator's office have been recommended to adjust their positions in the proceedings where the judges hesitate between sending a defendant to a "labor" settlement or prison.
Hary Pahaniaila, a renowened human rights activist of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee, believes that in fact the members of the procurator's office and judges are urged to pass tougher verdicts instead of actually improving the daily conditions in the correctional facilities and humanizing them: "The mirror that reflects the situation should not be condemned, a decision should be sent to the government so that, first, the number of companies that can employ sentenced people, and, second, their daily conditions be improved. The situation where every fourth person fails to complete the "labor" sentence, commit a crime and get back to prison".