Employing convicts in construction not ‘GULAG’ labor, human rights official says

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MOSCOW, June 8. /TASS/. Valery Fadeyev, head of the Presidential Council on Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, believes that comparing the idea of employing convicts in major construction projects to Soviet-era GULAG is wrong.

“This bone-chilling word, ‘GULAG’ has nothing to do with the Federal Penitentiary Service’s proposal, other than pure emotions,” he said at a TASS press conference Tuesday. “In order to clear away these sentiments and some Russian citizens do have concerns […] the Federal Penitentiary Service must present a thoroughly elaborated draft, which we will also discuss in the Council.”

Fadeyev underscored that the Council is already discussing this proposal from the standpoint of human rights.

“Our goal is not economical, but a humanitarian one to ease the life of those who embarked on the path of correction,” the official said. “Those who want to make amends, who want to deserve the right to be released on parole through their labor, those who seek to compensate the damages to the victims those are our target audience. We want to help them.”

Fadeyev also noted the citizens’ security concerns regarding the implementation of the Federal Penitentiary Service’s idea.

“These are criminals serving out their sentences. And there is a question to the Penitentiary Service as to whether it would be able to guarantee the full safety of citizens living in settlements where these convicts will work,” he said.

The Council head also noted that prison labor would not be able to replace labor migrants.

“There are many millions of migrants working in our country, whereas there are at most 200,000 convicts who will be able [to work] should this idea be implemented. There could be no talk of replacing migrants,” he underscored.

Earlier, Federal Penitentiary Service Director Alexander Kalashnikov suggested organizing correctional centers for convicts, entitled to compulsory labor, at major construction sites where there is a shortage of labor migrants.