Thug life in the Ukrainian prisons

Author : Olena Holubeva

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukraine's lock-down - find out the details about criminal hierarchy, thieves and punks, lower administration link from among the prisoners, prison rules, alcohol, drugs, and card games
10:44, 3 September 2018

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Ukraine’s system for the enforcement of sentences, like many other spheres, have absorbed a great Soviet legacy. After the revolution, the authorities have promised to radically change the country’s system of execution of punishments. And this work has started.

The disciplinary unit of Zhytomyr penal institution No. 8 is traditionally located in a special building. This is the worst place in prison: the air has a persistent smell of urine and humidity is high due to water all over the floor below. Until recently, the disciplinary unit was not heated at all (even in winter), the temperature inside was equal to the temperature outside, the floor was made of stone. Now it is already covered with wood, and there are heaters. In the summer, the only barred window of the disciplinary unit was covered with special metal shields; in summer, it created unbearable heat. The tortures of the prisoner were intensified by the fetid evaporation from the toilet located here, on these very two square meters – the so-called "faucet." Seeing a rat in the hole of the faucet is a usual thing here.

Related: 48 Crimean Tatars illegally jailed for political reasons in annexed Crimea

A disciplinary unit is not the worst thing here; there is a so-called "glass-hut," an unheated and unventilated room in which you can only stand, you cannot even hunker down or move. The "glass-huts" are located in the special building, but their use has been banned for ten years. The convict could be also thrown to the "harass-hut" (where prisoners, leashed by the administration, serve their time). In such a cell, people are lawlessly shattered: they deprive people of health or even of human dignity. Unofficially, prison administration admits that "harass-huts" still exist but their existence is not officially recorded.

According to official data from the Ministry of Justice, at the beginning of 2018, the number of prisoners in Ukraine reached 56,123 people. There are 148 penitentiary facilities in the territory, controlled by Ukraine.

Related: Ukraine passes list of political prisoners in Russia to Turkey

A facility, in which the situation is controlled by the administration, is traditionally called "red." This classification is most likely connected with the fact that the prisons, which distinguished in socialist competitions in the Soviet Union, were awarded a red pennant, and the backbone of the criminal thieves' milieu was considered to be a "black bone." Representatives of elite criminal convicts, thieves and those who aspire to join them, are not be able to collaborate with the prison’s administration without losing their authority.

Tattooing remains a testament to the status of a person in captivity; all the tattoos have respective meaning. Rascals are not allowed to have tattoos. The higher hierarchies representatives usually are marked with special prison rings. Playing cards are officially prohibited, however, prisoners play different card games. Most of the card games are played for keeps.

Related: Russia must report on health conditions of four Ukrainian political prisoners before September 5, - ECHR

Unofficially a colony employee from the junior ranks admits that there are “punks” in the colony. And, of course, they have a separate table in the dining room: "Now we have supposedly gender equality and all castes or labels are prohibited. Theoretically, we should put them by a common table. But do you imagine what would happen if we do this? People are serving their sentence, and they have their self-esteem, do we have the right to humiliate them? Do you imagine what will happen in the colony if you a prison bitch sits takes a seat near the others?"

"The prison bitches also have their own hierarchy. Previously, they were physically raped in the prison, now different items are used, for example, a mop. The prisoner might be just humiliated, for example, someone urinates on his face and smear a penis over the lips. But this is not the true “punk’s” humiliation. The prisoners know who are really “hustled,” and we know them well..." an employee of one of the colonies said unofficially.

The head of the Raikovetska prison says that in his institution, after a “cell toss,” 200 liters of prison wine were seized in the first half of the year, 9 criminal cases were opened on the fact of the seizure of drugs. He complains that prison wine and drugs (also mobile phones) are thrown through the fence by special “throwers.” The prison’s administration cannot do anything with it: only the police have the right to detain them. Fixing the fact of throwing something on the territory of the prison, the staff of the colony call a police squad, but usually, the police come too late.

According to the Ministry of Justice, as of June 1, 2018, during the 120,766 searches in protected areas 6418 UAH or 240 USD (92 cases), 5,418 mobile phones, 563 liters of alcoholic beverages, 8631 liters of fermentation products, 3,218 piercing-cutting items, 44 grams (12 cases) of drugs were recorded. Attempts to deliver 1,039 liters of alcoholic beverages, 3,6 kg of drugs were stopped.

Related: Riot at Lukyanivska prison: four ex-Tornado fighters, two prison workers served charges

As of June 30 (since the beginning of the year), 2,190 cases of transferring prohibited items through fences of the institutions of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine were recorded. Recently, the law enforcers have detained a lieutenant colonel, an employee of the Odesa remand centre, who was trying to carry a large amount of drugs to the prisoners. After the detention, he admitted that the prisoners promised him a thousand hryvnia bribe (40 USD).

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The salaries of junior staff in the colony are now 260 USD, the middle level employees get 370 USD, the senior staff gets 670 USD, and the heads of the prisons get approximately 850 USD.

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The convicts do not hurry to realize their right to work on the industrial facilities, there is no special motivation for it. The payment of their labor is ridiculously small. According to the Ministry of Justice, in 2017, the average monthly salary of convicts was 53 USD per month (against 20 USD in 2015 and 22 USD in 2016). One convict, who currently works as a janitor (cleaning the premises and helping in the kitchen), said that his monthly salary is not more than 37 USD.

112 Agency

Convicts’ wage and pensions withholdings are made: personal income tax 15%, alimony, cost of food, clothing, footwear, communal services, and other services (except the cost of special clothing and special food). Regardless of all withholdings, 50% of the monthly salary go to the personal account of the prisoner. Another serious aspect of the problem is that the prisoner cannot actually buy a lot. For the money accrued by the bank transfer to the personal account, convicts can buy something in the prison shops. At the time of a correspondent visit, in the store of penal colony No. 4 you could buy toilet paper, matches, bulbs, washing powder, wooden cutting boards, black trousers for 7,3 USD, fur caps (in August!), shaving foam, deodorant, markers (0,3 USD), brushes for drawing - (0,16 USD), shoe polish, lighters.

Related: Justice Ministry fires Lukyanivska Prison staff, - people's deputy

You can also buy juice, fizzy water, chocolate, sunflower oil, noodles, cocoa, olives, dried soup briquettes, canned goods, waffle cakes.

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The only tea brand is "Princess Nuri" in sachets, there is no loose tea. For the preparation of the traditional builder's tea, loose tea is required. Lately, only old school prisoners, who are imprisoned for 15 years or more years, use to drink builder's tea, young prisoners take care of their health.

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Life-term convicts have prison visits every other months, ordinary convicts are allowed to see their relatives and lovers every three months, representatives of the lower administration link can take visits on a monthly basis. Long-term visits can last up to three days. Either close relatives, or a legitimate spouse might come to the prison visit.

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According to the order of the Ministry of Justice, approved on October 19, 2017, the convicts were given the right to create e-mail and use it under the supervision of the administration. In the new order, it is written that they have the right to use Skype-communication.

Related: Government to allocate $3,8 for every family of political prisoner

For all the years of independence, no new correctional facility has been built in Ukraine. The most important issue of the penitentiary system remains that Ukraine has no system of socialization or adaptation of the former prisoners. Everyone knows that people with a criminal record cannot find any official employment.

112 Agency

According to the Ministry of Justice, in the first quarter of 2018, out of 3,619 people released from penitentiary institutions, 20 officially had no housing, 185 had no passports, 235 had no professional education, and 62 had secondary education. Out of this number of people, 36 were sent to social adaptation institutions, and 17 to medical institutions. 943 people were employed, another 57 were officially registered as unemployed.

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