Work to live : the function of prison labour in the Russian prison system
Work was the dominant activity of prisoners in Russia for most of the twentieth century and was justified according to the philosophies prevalent in Tsarist and Soviet society. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, no specific ideology has emerged. Consequently, there is an absence of clear justifications for prison labour in Russia today. The main concern of this thesis, therefore, is with the function that prison labour serves in Russia in the early twenty-first century, now that it is no longer driven by a dominant ideology, as historically was the case. As Russia is becoming integrated into Europe, so too it is exposed to trends in prisons there, and officials recognise the obligation to comply with international instruments affecting the treatment of prisoners. Recent political and economic developments have adversely affected prison budgets in Russia. For this and other reasons, despite its good intentions, the central administration is finding it difficult to meet obligations to treat prisoners humanely. The second purpose of this thesis is to examine whether trends in European imprisonment will emerge in Russia, and how this might affect complying with international regulations. The study discovered that while staff extol the rehabilitative benefits of prison labour, nowadays, it has become the mechanism for survival for the staff and prisoners in institutions cut off from the wider economy and which can no longer rely on financial support from Moscow. In the most literal sense prisoners are working to live. Goods and services, which once were fully integrated - by command from the Moscow government - into an enormously complex and differentiated economy, are now bartered in the micro-economies of the local community. The findings will be dealt with in relation to the European Rules and the further implications in terms of management of the prison system.