An record number of convicts could be released from Russian prisons ahead of the 65th Victory Day festivities in a presidential initiative to make the penal system more humane.
A new law being considered by parliament would open the door to the pardoning of war veterans, people with disabilities and those with minor criminal records.
As 300,000 inmates make up almost a third of the entire Russian prison population, wide-reaching effects on the prison system are expected.
The criteria for those who are going to be illegible for the amnesty are very strict. Among the inmates included in the list are World War II veterans, minor offenders, first-time offenders, juveniles, the disabled, pregnant women, and single parents.
Serious offenders, such as murderers, rapists, violent criminals, and economic criminals, will stay inside.
The amnesty would become part of a sweeping prison reform announced by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev earlier this year, when Russian authorities acknowledged that the poor state of the prison system requires urgent action.
However, Sonja Zekri, editor in chief of Germanys Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, is far from optimistic about the forthcoming reform.
“Medvedev has been trying to show himself as a reformer of the whole legal and penal system, but for me, it’s rather a capitulation, admitting that the legal system doesn’t work at all,” Zekri told RT. “If you look at criminal trials, the numbers are terrible. If you are accused of a criminal offense, in 99.9% of the cases you are convicted. As soon as you are on trial, you have no chance.”
“So far, there is no reform. He is releasing people who ended up in prison because the legal system is the way it is. From the humanitarian side, the amnesty is nice, but not if we talk about the reform of the legal system,” Zekri added.