#6 - JRL 2009-139 - JRL Home
Moscow Times
July 24, 2009
Community Service May Replace Jail Terms
By Alexander Velikanov / Special to The Moscow Times

The Justice Ministry has proposed expanding the use of community service as an alternative to jail terms to help lessen the burden on the country’s prison system.

The amendments to 47 articles of the Criminal Code, posted on the ministry’s web site and reported Thursday by Vedomosti, include the possibility of community service for crimes ranging from threatening murder to spreading venereal disease.

“Adding obligatory service to the list of punishments can lower the number of people sentenced to jail terms,” the ministry wrote in an explanatory note.

The community service would be “socially useful” work done in convicts’ spare time and would take less than four hours per day. The projects could include landscaping, building and repair, agriculture and other kinds of labor that do not require special training.

Under the Criminal Code, a person can also be sentenced to corrective labor, which is far more serious and included as punishment for many more offenses.

Other crimes included in the Justice Ministry’s proposal are buying drugs, illegal logging, slandering a judge, making false terrorist threats, interfering in a journalist’s work, illegal campaign financing and damaging cultural landmarks. President Dmitry Medvedev has frequently called for the country’s corrective system to be liberalized. In early July, he granted pardons to 15 people imprisoned for minor crimes.

“We must not only humanize punishments but also build a system of criminal penance for light crimes without jailing,” Medvedev told human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin in December.

Earlier this month, Olga Yegorova, head of the Moscow City Court, said in an interview with Rossiiskaya Gazeta that she wanted judges to release on bail more suspects awaiting trial for nonviolent crimes.

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