Sick Prisons, Low Funding

Writing in Eurasia Review, Paul Goble looks at the dismal state of healthcare for prisoners in Russia. Federal Penal System deputy head Nikolay Krivolapov said earlier this week that nearly half of the country’s prison population was ill. A pretty staggering statistic. But although Russia spends about the equivalent of a dollar a week on medical care per prisoner, Krivolapov, while admitting that the situation was “abysmal”, argued more funding was not necessary. Rights workers disagree:

Lev Ponomaryev, the executive director of the All-Russian For Human Rights Movement, says that he and his colleagues have found that in many prisons and camps, there are not enough of even the most basic medicines, an indication that even if they are being purchased, they are not reaching those who need them.

For that reason and because the medical situation in Russian prisons is so dire, Ponomaryev continued, penitentiary officials “must not give the impression that everything is fine. They need to raise the alarm,” something that rights activists had hoped would happen when a new director for the system was appointed.

Russians focus on the deaths of prisoners in Moscow who have not received the medical treatment they need, but few of them recognize that the situation elsewhere in the country is much worse. “Yes,” Ponomaryev says, “some of [the prisoners who died] were intentionally killed, but at times the cause of death was the result of the way things are done in prisons.”

This situation in which poor medical care for prisoners leads to their deaths or disability is “characteristic for all our system of punishment,” the rights activist says.