By Paul Goble
Even though Moscow has reduced Russia’s prison population by almost a third over the last decade, the country still has more prisoners both absolutely and relative to population than its neighbors or than any European country, according to a new University of Lausanne study prepared for the Council of Europe.
At present, the study says, Russia has 602,176 people behind bars or in camps, a figure equal to 418.3 per 100,000. No other country in the survey has as many or as many per capita: the Russian figure is nearly twice that of Azerbaijan and four times that of European countries (vedomosti.ru/politics/articles/2019/04/02/798027-rossii-dolshe-deshevle).
And while Russia spends more on its prison system than any other country in the survey – 3.9 billion euros (4.8 billion US dollars), it spends less to feed its inmates, only 2.5 euros (3 US dollars) a day, compared to an all-European average of 66.5 euros (80 US dollars). Even Azerbaijan, Moldova and Georgia spend more than Russia does
In European countries, the average time in prison “does not exceed 8.2 months,” and only 1.2 percent of prisoners are serving life sentences. In Russia, however, the majority of prisoners will be behind bars five to ten years, although those sentenced to life imprisonment currently number less than one percent.
Finally, the study finds, those behind bars in Russia are two times more likely to die there, with 51 deaths among 10,000 prisoners every year. Of these, five are suicides.