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#10 - JRL 7066
Russian prison population shrank by 100,000 in 2002 - minister

MOSCOW. Feb 18 (Interfax) - The Russian prison population shrank by 100,000 people last year, says Justice Minister Yuri Chaika.

He told a Tuesday session of the ministry board that 70,000 people left pre-trial detention facilities and 30,000 left prisons and other correctional institutions.

"For the first time in three years, the combined prison population went below the 1 million mark and amounts to some 870,000 people today," Chaika said.

He explained the drop by the policy of humanizing the penitentiary system, which the government has been pursuing in recent years. "As a result of legislative and organizational steps, the Russian penitentiary system has approached European standards," he said. Moreover, the European community is trying to benefit from the positive experience accumulated by Russia in this sphere, he added.

Chaika said that thanks to the reduction of the prison population, the problem of overcrowding at pre-trial facilities has largely been resolved. "By now the space per inmate has approached 3-4 square meters, which meets international requirements," he said.

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