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Russian convicts help counter effects of foreign sanctions

October 28, 2014, 16:26 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Dmitry Rogulin

MOSCOW, October 28. /TASS/. Russian convicts, just as everybody else these days, have been making their contribution to the joint effort to counter the effects of foreign sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine. For their part, the authorities have been taking steps to ensure corrective labour should benefit both those serving prison terms and the penitentiary institutions.

Correctional establishments in Russia’s Far Eastern Primorye Territory have noticeably stepped up production in the wake of sanctions against Russia, the chief of the regional office of the penitentiaries department, Oleg Simchenkov, said on Tuesday.

“In 2014 we made some adjustments to our line of products to fill in the niche with foods and other items in good demand. The output went up by 40 million roubles ($1 million) over just four months,” quotes Simchenkov as saying. Under the current rate of exchange one dollar buys roughly 40 roubles.

Over just nine months of this year Primorye’s penitentiaries manufactured over $5 million worth of different products, and in 2015 the output is to go up further to almost $12 million, Simchenkov said.

The region’s penitentiaries grow farm produce and manufacture building materials, furniture, footwear, clothing, including uniform for the law enforcement agencies, and also perform wood-and metal-working operations. At the moment about 16,000 convicts are serving prison terms at the region’s penitentiaries.

The trends in other regions of Russia are basically the same. In the first half of 2014 the correctional system of the southern Krasnodar Territory showed an 18.8% growth in output ($4.2 million in cash terms).

At the moment 18,000 convicts are kept at the penitentiaries and detention centres of the Krasnodar Territory. They produce building materials, metal structures, uniform, furniture, fire-fighting equipment and farming products.

The federal penitentiary service FSIN is determined to make industrial production at Russia’s correctional establishments a profitable business, its chief, Anatoly Rudy said last September. In the future there will be no officers, and everybody kept their will be living on the money they earn. All restrictions on wages will be lifted,” Rudy said.

The problems of Russia’s convicts are well seen in the piles of complaints about the lack of jobs, low wages, overstated production targets and also problems with keeping the work record essential to the calculation of old age pensions, and other violations.

Russia’s human rights commissioner, Ella Pamfilova, early last June suggested complementing the Penal Code with a special chapter regulating convicts’ labour activity at Russia’s penitentiaries.

The director of Russia’s penitentiary service, Gennady Korniyenko, and Sberbank CEO German Gref inked an agreement to create a special Trading House (having the status of a federal state unitary enterprise) in order to market finished products the penitentiaries manufacture. The agreement took effect on July 1, 2014.

Sberbank will provide loans for financing industrial activity at the penal institutions and provide banking guarantees for the proper execution of state contracts and refunding.

The Trading House will take over all of the penitentiaries’ commercial functions, such a contacts with related traders, the development of production and sales and marketing. The ultimate aim is to clear the sphere of production of intermediaries, whose accounts siphon off a considerable share of penitentiaries’ profits.

The FSIN today is a huge state-run corporation” with a net profit of almost $24 million a year. The agency controls 35 federal state unitary enterprises, which manufacture more than 100,000 product titles.

A total of 600,000 men and women are serving prison terms these days.

After taxes the employed convict retains one minimum monthly wage of 5,200 roubles a month (about $130). Some may be making a little bit more. Those in the timber and building industry or employed at blast furnaces are getting 15,000 and even 20,000 roubles, because these are very hard, strenuous jobs.


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