Russian government officials are in intensive negotiations with large businesses to find investors to create a large-scale program of penitentiary work. Moscow intends to use inmates to replace the foreign guest workers who returned home due to the Covid-19 epidemic, daily Magyar Nemzet reports.
“We are negotiating with companies making agreements and working actively on the matter,” Russian Justice Minister Konstantin Chuichenko told reporters on Monday.
“Anyway, I think the idea of replacing guest workers with detainees is right,” he added. The politician also said that they intend to set up correctional institutions with large construction sites and extensive industrial sites.
The latest round of the heated debate on the controversial subject was initiated last week by Alexander Kalashnikov, director of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN). He said the Central Asian guest workers were gone, however, nationwide, 188,000 convicts could acquire the right to work during their sentence.
Kalashnikov explained that at present the range of activities that can be carried out with prison work is much smaller than this, most workplaces can only provide about 100 jobs. Nevertheless, the country has created 8,000 jobs for prison residents, giving them the opportunity to earn money and learn professions, proving their ability to reintegrate into society.
“We are ready to organize all this. These facilities will not be Gulags, but entirely new, decent institutions with fair pay,” Kalashnikov said.
Back in March, the Russian government warned that a number of key sectors, such as construction, had severe labor shortages due to a shortage of Central Asian guest workers as many were forced home due to the coronavirus epidemic.
The use of prison labor has been discussed many times in Russia. This practice is already widespread, including in the United States, where the vast majority of the more than 2 million inmates work in this way.
In Russia, however, the past is still haunting, and many fear a return to the infamous Soviet Gulags, which served as prison labor camps. During the Stalinist era, it is estimated that more than 1 million people died in penitentiary camps in the Far East and Siberia due to epidemics and brutal treatment and executions.
According to the latest available data of the FSIN, in March 2019, Russia had a total prisoner population of 558,778 or 0.4 percent of the country’s total population.