Massive changes in Russian criminal policy will soon transfer about 350,000 convicts from jail to the streets, the largest exodus of prisoners since the Gulag camps were emptied post-Stalin in the 1950s, according to IN THESE TIMES.
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The new law, slated to be launched in coming months, will effect one-third of Russia’s million-plus inmates by changing limits on pretrial detention, reducing sentences for petty crime, and expanding the probation system. It represents the first serious attempt to address the brutality and poor conditions of their prison system, which are symptoms of overcrowding.
But one-tenth of Russia’s inmates have tuberculosis, and AIDS is spreading rapidly due to increased heroin addiction among prisoners, so human rights groups are skeptical that a large amnesty will do more than alleviate the population problem, pointing to the high potential for homelessness on the streets and continued inmate abuse behind bars.