Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
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#3 - JRL 7209
Amount of people in Russia's remand facilities almost halved in 2 years

MOSCOW. June 4 (Interfax) - The number of people being held in Russia's remand facilities has almost halved over the past two years, Justice Minister Yuri Chaika said on Wednesday.

There has been a decrease of 120,000 people since May 2000.

Moreover, Russia's overall prison population has decreased by 218,000 people or 20% over the past two years, Chaika said at a meeting with public and human rights activists in Moscow.

"Several laws and amendments have been adopted in the past few years to make the correctional system more liberal and humane," he said.

New draft laws broaden the spectrum of alternative punishment not involving imprisonment.

Thanks to the lower prison population, conditions have improved for the inmates. "In many regions, the sanitary norms are consistent with international standards, that is, four square meters per prisoner," he said.

"Cooperation with human rights organizations is very important for us," he said. The Justice Ministry's correctional system has become more open and understandable for foreign organizations, he said.

Valery Borschyov, a prominent human rights activist and State Duma deputy, emphasized the importance of public control over the situation with correctional facilities.

Chaika was briefed on relatives' complaints regarding prison staff. For instance, inmates are being made to work on weekends without additional payment.

Chaika promised to look into the complaints and take appropriate steps.

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