How will the Pussy Riot band members fare in Russia’s ‘harshest prisons’?

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/23/pussy-riot-russia-harshest-prisons

Russia’s ‘correctional colonies’ have high wooden fences topped by razor wire and watch towers, while the remote locations make visits from parents and children extremely difficult

Judith Pallot
The Guardian, Tuesday 23 October 2012

Russian prisoners’ lexicon is colourful and full of historical references. Soon, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the two members of the rock band Pussy Riot who are still imprisoned, will discover the inside of a “Stolypin wagon”, a special windowless railway carriage, divided internally into a series of iron-barred cells. These carriages, named after the Tsarist prime minister who introduced them in 1906, have been used for over a century to transport prisoners to penal colonies, many in the remote geographical margins.

This week Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova were told they will serve the rest of their two-year terms at women’s prison camps in Perm, Siberia, and Mordovia respectively. The band called them “the harshest camps of all the possible choices”.

Like most convicted prisoners in Russia, they will not be within easy reach of their families. The majority of women convicted in Moscow courts are taken to correctional colonies located between 200km and 500km from the capital. The south-west corner of Mordovia, one of the constituent ethnic republics of the Russian Federation, is 400km away and I visited its three women’s correctional colonies on a research trip in 2007-8.

Journeys to prison in Russia can follow meandering routes criss-crossing Russia as convicted prisoners – men, women, juveniles – are collected from remand and transit prisons over a wide area. It is for good reason that prisoners refer to the transportation as the estafeta, or relay-race.

To all intents and purpose, prisoners disappear into a black hole during transportation, re-emerging only when they arrive at their destination colony. One girl we interviewed in L’govo, a juvenile colony south of Moscow, described how it had taken three months to transport her from Ukhta in the remote European north, during which time she was out of contact with anyone on the outside. Her parents learned of her whereabouts only two weeks after she had arrived in L’govo.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/23/pussy-riot-russia-harshest-prisons

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