Russia expects to cut its prison population by 150,000 within next two years

A new wording of the Criminal Code will cut by 2005 the number of prison inmates by roughly 150,000, Russia's Deputy Justice Minister Yuri Kalinin told a news conference on Monday.

"Proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in March of this year, a draft of a federal law 'On Amendments and Additions to the Criminal Code of Russia' targets 101 amendments to existing criminal legislation and is aimed at easing the state's punitive policy, above all with respect to minors, women and persons guilty of insignificant public offences," he said.

"The state's criminal policy is being moved towards more liberal punishments and more objective assessment of deeds committed by an aberrant person," Kalinin said.

At present it is mainly those who commit grave and particularly grave crimes that are being put in custody, Kalinin noted. With regard to other persons who commit crimes of low or medium gravity, greater resort is being made to such measures of restraint as bail, surety, house arrest, and in respect of minors, putting them in the care of their relatives, guardians or other trustworthy persons. What is more, those convicted for crimes of negligence or premeditated offences of low and medium gravity are being sent to open-type colonies, so-called settled colonies, the deputy minister said.

Kalinin noted that there is at present a greater list of punishments unconnected with imprisonment, such as obligatory labour or freedom restrictions. Besides, early release from punishment can now be applied to women with small children.

As of October 1, 2003 Russia's penitentiary system catered for 855,200 convicts, suspects and accused of crimes, Kalinin said.

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