Russia needs an effective and humane criminal policy
Nikolai Fyodorov, Federation Council member, head of the Institute for Socio-Economic and Political Studies
In the past 15 years, about 15 million people have been convicted in Russia, or one in every six or seven adult citizens. This state of affairs is deforming society. The amount of money that the state is pouring into the upkeep of prisons is about half the amount that goes towards schools.
We propose to draft and adopt a conceptually new Criminal Code that will form the basis of a new modern criminal policy. This is the only approach that will make Russia’s justice system more effective and more humane. This new code needs to:
- limit the use of imprisonment as a penalty. It should only be used when a milder penalty cannot be imposed given the gravity of the offense.
- moderate the severity of criminal legislation in the economic sphere. Law enforcement activities should seek to protect and support legitimate entrepreneurial activities, not fight them.
- institute criminal liability of legal entities. This will improve the efficiency of the fight against corporate corruption, environmental crimes, financing of terrorism and organized crime.
Next, the Criminal Procedure Code needs to be updated in order to secure the protection of personal rights. Accordingly, it is necessary to:
- eliminate the phase of institution of a criminal case. This will ensure an unbiased investigation, and will reduce the red tape involved in criminal proceedings. It will also be an effective anti-corruption measure.
- remove investigators from the prosecutorial side. This will assist in overcoming the investigator bias, which exists in practice despite claims of objectivity during the collection and assessment of criminal evidence.
- limit the number of people who enjoy inviolability and procedural immunity. Simplifying the criminal prosecution of such individuals is an important step, thereby serving to implement the principle of equality before the law.
For the further improvement of the judicial system it is desirable to:
- establish a new type of court – administrative courts – designed to consider claims filed by individuals against the state. The amount of compensation that is paid to an individual for a violation of a reasonable duration of legal proceedings, or the execution of judicial acts, must be fixed in law.
- establish patent courts designed to protect the rights and legitimate interests of citizens and the state with regard to intellectual property.
- improve the process of appointing judges; make public verification of the credentials of candidates for judicial office, including written exams, mandatory. Post answers online.
- improve measures to prevent authorities from influencing courts. To this end, provide open access to requests sent by officials to courts.
- enhance the openness and transparency of the judicial system. An open online database of court rulings should be set up as soon as possible; courtrooms should be outfitted with audio- and video-recording equipment; these audio and video materials should be readily accessible to the public.
- expand the list of cases that may be considered with the participation of a jury. This will improve the work of the judicial system and the quality of investigation.
Thus far, despite reforms, the system of law enforcement continues to exist as a tool of deterrence and coercion rather than being used for the protection of individual rights and property. In this regard, it is necessary to:
- establish safeguards that ban the intrusion of law enforcement agencies into the private or business life of an individual; provide better protection of personal data, private property and investment.
- make the results of law enforcement agencies’ work available for public scrutiny. In addition to their senior officials, the effectiveness of their work should also be assessed by citizens.
Regarding improvements in the penal system, it is necessary to:
- Improve control over the functioning of detention centers, jails and correctional facilities. Jailed, imprisoned or arrested individuals must be treated in a manner that is neither degrading nor hazardous to their health, including providing them with timely medical assistance.