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Medvedev urges broader use of curbs on suspects' freedom instead of pre-trial detention

VOLOGDA. Feb 11 (Interfax) - "The introduction of curbs on (suspects') freedom of movement to replace pretrial detention will help reduce the number of inmates by 20,000 each year," President Dmitry Medvedev has said.

The cost of such measures - the use of electronic bracelets and others - is estimated at some 4 billion rubles, Medvedev told the State Council Presidium.

"The bail system must be used broadly, and house arrest and fines must be introduced," he said.

The population of Russian prisons was about 890,000 as of January 2009, "which is a very, very high figure," Medvedev said.

"The number of inmates, convicted for serious and grave crimes has doubled" over the past few years, the president said.

Important and urgent measures must be taken to reorganize the penitentiary system, he said.

"The main idea is to humanize the penitentiary system, to improve the inmates' living conditions, and to bring the entire penitentiary legislation into line with international standards," he said.

Speaking about the current shortcomings, he said that the inmates' living conditions sometimes are a direct threat to their health and lives.

"This being so, the government spends an enormous amount of money on the upkeep of the inmates and on their physical rehabilitation. So, ultimately, citizens pay for what is a damage to them," the president said.

The judiciary system and the custody practice in relation to minor offences should be perfected, he said.

"The salary system must be improved and the efficiency of professional training of penitentiary specialists must be enhanced," he added.

Ex-convicts must be offered an effective system of social rehabilitation, he said, adding that this problem cannot be solved if regional authorities are not involved.

Up to 300,000 inmates are released each year, Medvedev said. "The risks of crime repetition will be high if no program to adapt ex-convicts to normal life is implemented," he said.

Earlier on Wednesday Medvedev visited the Vologda correctional labor prison, where 134 minors are serving their terms.

The head of the prison, Sergei Kan, briefed the president about how the center works and the nature of its living conditions.