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Prison reform: Ukraine's luxurious pay-to-stay penitentiaries

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

Key directions of the reform: 1) decreasing the number of prisons, 2) reduction of their "contingent", 3) earning money in pre-trial detention centers by introducing "pay to stay" cells
11:17, 4 August 2020

The Ministry of Justice is an institution entrusted with many tasks – quite different and seemingly distant from each other. This is the registration of political parties, and the supervision of the penitentiary system, this is a notary and the adaptation of Ukrainian legislation to international standards. But the head of the department, Denys Maliuska, made prisons and pre-trial detention centers the meaning of his activities - he pays maximum attention to the penitentiary system. However, his zeal does not make an impression: quite often the minister promotes ideas that contradict not only common sense, but also the Criminal Code

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The view of the justice minister

Back in April 2020, Denys Maliuska presented the concept of reforming the penitentiary system. The main directions of the prison reform are 1) decreasing the number of prisons, 2) reduction of their "contingent", 3) earning money in pre-trial detention centers by introducing "pay to stay" cells.

"This will give us significant budget savings and will allow us to close a large number of half-empty prisons. On the other hand, prisoners will be able to stay closer to their families - receive parcels and communicate with their relatives more often. many factors - the level of observance of human rights, the conditions of provision of convicts, the quality of risk and needs assessment... All this will allow us to make the system, on the one hand, cheaper, on the other hand, much more effective," says Maliuska.

So, the first project is to close old prisons and open new, universal ones. Second, to release criminals convicted of minor crimes by introducing an alternative system of punishment. In particular, the so-called "probationary supervision" instead of traditional imprisonment. Maliuska sets out its essence as follows: "A person has certain responsibilities, for example, to get a job, undergo treatment, training, sometimes electronic monitoring will monitor his movement. People who undergo probation do not actually commit new crimes even now. 98% of people absolutely are normally resocialized. An extremely effective means of influencing criminals," the minister is convinced.

In addition, it is planned to maximize the scope of public works as a form of punishment. And here we are not talking about serious crimes, but about small ones, when there is no point in sending a person to places of imprisonment. Community service will be applied both as the main and as an additional type of punishment, for example, together with probation supervision.

“We propose to abolish such a type of punishment as a restriction of freedom when a person spends the night in a correctional center, and during the day can go beyond it. Why such punishment exists and what its purpose is - is not entirely clear. In addition, we want to individualize punishment as much as possible. And we focus on assessing the risks and needs of each convict. Such an assessment will serve as a basis for determining the subsequent fate of convicts. For example, parole, which now exempts about 30% of all We want the parole to happen on the basis of a scientifically grounded statistical method - the risk of such convicts committing a crime again,” says Maliuska.

Related: Ministry of Justice earned over $4,000 on pay-to-stay detention centers in Ukraine

Luxury prisons

For the time being, the proposals of the head of the Ministry of Justice look quite acceptable. One may agree with them or not, but they are at least suitable for discussion. But Denys Maliuska also has another set of ideas that literally drive you into a stupor. Recently, the official decided to involve artificial intelligence to choose a measure of restraint or punishment for a person accused in a criminal case. Thus, Maliuska hoped to exclude the human factor from the process, or, more simply, bribes or "telephone law" for judges.

Earlier, before the idea of ​​artificial intelligence, Maliuska proposed to release some of the prisoners - even those who are sentenced to life imprisonment, that is, they have grave and especially grave crimes, primarily murders, in the background. The minister motivated this both by the epidemic of the coronavirus and by the fact that life-sentenced people are generally quite nice people.

Those sentenced to life imprisonment are "extremely restrained, intelligent, intelligent, well-read people. A classic example is when a man of 19-20-year-old boy returned from the army. Someone in the gang killed someone from the same group... It was in 1989-1990-1991. Now it is 2020. They have been sitting for decades. These are people who are already 40-50 years old. They do not even particularly remember that life. They are absolutely different people. I am ready to take on such people. You can communicate with them about many different things. They are careful and did not see another world. It's terrible," Maliuska notes.

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"The society should understand that it is safe, these people are adequate, they can be gradually released, selectively, after a thorough analysis of psychologists, and there is no point in spending budget funds on their maintenance," he added.

Since saving money and filling the budget became a kind of fixed idea for Maliuska, the minister came up with two more initiatives. First, to accept real estate as a bail from those whom the court is ready to release before the verdict is passed. "We propose to accept as collateral not only monetary funds but also, for example, real estate. Or provide an opportunity to pay the collateral by installments," the minister said.

Related: Ukraine launches pay-to-stay cells project

His second initiative is to equip private detention centers or at least private cells for the rich “clients,” which will differ significantly in terms of comfort and quality of service. “We will go to the privatization of the pre-trial detention center. And we will indeed have private pre-trial detention centers,” he promises. What is the meaning of innovation? For a stay in a private pre-trial detention center, the "client" will pay, and these funds will go to the maintenance of the state pre-trial detention center, where those who cannot pay for themselves are kept. Maliuska compares private pre-trial detention centers with some hotels, the only difference of which is the presence of guards and bars on the windows.

The minister has already been explained more than once why such an idea is not only bad, but also criminal, but it seems that he is not going to deviate from the plan.

Actually, sending a person to a pre-trial detention center (as opposed to booking a hotel) is a compulsory action carried out by the state and which bears 100% responsibility for this. To distribute those arrested to those who can and who cannot afford better conditions means violating the fundamental provision on the equality of all people before the law and, in addition, a number of articles of the Constitution of Ukraine.

In particular, article 28, which prohibits torture, as well as "cruel, inhuman or degrading" treatment or punishment. And also Articles 21 and 24, which declare the equality of human rights and the inalienability and inviolability of freedom. Article 8, which proclaims the rule of law. And finally, the third article of the Constitution, which says that "a person, his life and health, honor and dignity, inviolability and security are recognized in Ukraine as the highest social value."

And one more important point: innocent citizens are sent to pre-trial detention centers. Innocent people in the understanding that before the verdict of the court their guilt is not considered proven, and the trial (which happens rarely in Ukraine, but still happens) might end with an acquittal. Therefore, why a potentially innocent person should pay the state for his or her forced isolation remains unclear. As well as whether Mr. Maliuska is going to pay compensation to a person who leaves the courtroom cleared of any suspicion.

The Minister of Justice could be held accountable for at least abuse of office. And for the disregard for human rights, the violation of which is obvious. But it seems that the official does not understand that he himself can experience all the delights of the "reformed" penitentiary system.

Related: Why Ukraine hasn't pardoned its prisoners in amnesty due to Covid-19?

So, on August 1, the minister presented two paid cells in the Odesa remand prison – renovated, equipped with the air conditioning and a boiler. Their prices are "stable regardless of the season," said Maliuska. One day costs 35 USD, a week – 126 USD, a month – 147 USD. “The fact is that all the Kyiv residents rest in Odesa, and there were no paid cameras there. Capital residents could feel discomfort. But we are client-oriented,” Maliuska wrote in his usual style. And he also offered to buy certificates for paid cameras and give them to potential "clients".

Foreign experience

The idea of ​​reforming penitentiary institutions and even launching them was promoted during the premiership of Volodymyr Groysman. However, then it was about the sale of only two pre-trial detention centers (in Kyiv and Lviv). Since both prisons are state-owned, their implementation was possible, but never took place.

The reasons are still unknown. The plot of land on which the Lukyanivsky pre-trial center is located was estimated at almost 360,000 USD at the beginning of 2017. Perhaps the price did not seem attractive to a potential buyer, who, in addition, should bear the costs associated with the liquidation of the prison building. The second probable reason is, perhaps, that all the "prisoners" had to be moved somewhere. At the time of Groysman, no one was going to release the prisoners to all four sides, as Maliuska suggests doing.

"Clients" of Lukyanivsky pre-trial center have an option to live in the Kotsyubynsky urban-type settlement in the Kyiv region. The locals were not delighted with such a neighborhood. Although then Deputy Minister of Justice Denys Chernyshov explained that the ministry "has a land plot with state ownership, which is at the disposal of the penitentiary system, but not at the disposal of the Kotsyubynsky village council," that is, the state was not going to ask someone's permission.

In any case, the sale of the largest pretrial detention center in Ukraine was removed from the agenda. The isolation ward is still owned by the state. In the United States, the private prison industry was actively developing in the 80s of the last century, when the fight against drug trafficking was going on in the country. Now the United States has 2.1 million prisoners, about 128,000 of them (6%) are in private prisons. The state pays companies for this 23 thousand dollars a year for one prisoner.

At the same time, American private prisons have their own significant drawbacks: private companies often save government money allocated for prisoners, and also do not accept people who are sick or unable to work hard.

In the UK, private prisons appeared in the 90s. As of the beginning of the year, 15,900 (19%) out of 83,500 prisoners were serving their sentences in private prisons. The private prison industry in the UK has a different problem: high levels of violence, illegal possession, and use of drugs.

Related: Covid-19 outbreak observed in Russian colony with Ukrainian political prisoner Kiyashko

Meanwhile, in Australia, 7,400 out of 43,100 convicted are in non-state (17%) prisons. However, the conditions there are no worse: about $ 200 is spent per prisoner per day, and in state prison - $ 300. At the same time, some private prisons are overcrowded.

There are also private penitentiary institutions in Brazil, Mexico, France, Britain, South Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Denmark, Estonia, Chile, Peru, and South Africa. However, here we are talking specifically about criminals who were recognized as such by a court decision. As for the contingent of pre-trial detention centers, that is, people whose guilt has not yet been proven, they are not being held in private prisons anywhere in the world. Ukraine can become a "pioneer" in this area, although it is not known whether our country needs to be first here.

Related: 7,000 Ukrainians currently imprisoned abroad, - Ombudsman Denisova

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