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The Ukrainian prison and probation policy (1991 – 2020): generalization of modulations and assessment of key indicators

This research aims at analysis of the Ukrainian prison and probation policy for the last 30 years. This paper is based on evaluation of different data concerning trends of prison and probation population, crime rates in prisons, mortality and suicide rates in prison in the light of funding of the prison and probation system. The paper contains the main conclusion that the Ukrainian prison and probation policy is not a policy in fact. Unfortunately, it is mostly narrowed to eliminating previous formal bureoarctic structures and creating new ones, the feasibility and necessity of which is not properly explained. As a result, the Ukrainian prison and probation policy is completely devoid of continuity, as every new Minister of Justice, announcing a certain new policy course, ignores the past policy modulations and does not evaluate the indicators of the previous modulations of prison and probation policy. If such an assessment takes place, it is only in the categories of populism and total historical and criminological ignorance. The Ukrainian prison and probation policy is also completely devoid of financial transparency, which exacerbates the problem of the effectiveness of the policy in view of the declining number of prisoners and the increasing prison and probation budgets. The Ukrainian prison and probation policy is completely inconsistent. The transition from the previous to each new modulation is explained by the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine mostly by historical phantasms and ideological slogans, but not by statistics. It could be said that the Ukrainian prison and probation policy is a complete failure in the aspect of providing the state, society, experts and academics with information on the penitentiary system and prison and probation statistics. The official sources of the prison service (regardless of the official title of the service) and the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine have never had even basic penitentiary statistics on key indicators in their dynamics. Some fragmentary and very often contradictory data can be found only, as 20 years ago, on the websites of the UNODC and the Council of Europe. This gap is partially closed by statistics from the International Center for Prison Studies. However, in fact, the only Ukrainian resource for penitentiary statistics is the website of the Donetsk Memorial NGO. In turn, this shows that for 20 years the Ukrainian penitentiary system and the relevant governmental structures have not emerged from the state of conservation and secrecy, demonstrating the Soviet tradition of forced immersion of the penitentiary system and the state of absolute secrecy. Surprisingly, all bureaucratic modulations of the Ukrainian prison and probation policy, which took place before 2015, seems to be more transparent and prosocial, and more politically fair, given the cumulative effect of all public policy indicators, especially the relationship between the effectiveness and efficiency. All bureaucratic modulations did not hide their bureaucratization, secrecy, and Soviet principles of governance, largely due to the militarization of the penitentiary system, which included both the militarization of the penitentiary service and the militarization of prisoners. In addition, the most of the problems of the Ukrainian prison system, which led to the relevant negative but objective labels according to the CPT reports and the ECHR judgments, were due to the fact that governmental prison and probation structures of bureaucratic modulations had almost zero funding, old conservative staff, huge numbers of prisoners, mass overcrowding of prisons, and the collapse of the economic component of the Soviet correctional prison-labor system, based on the compulsory labor of convicts. The conditional political "honesty" of the bureaucratic modulations of prison and probation policy is concerned with a conclusion that they had not ashamed to call themselves what they were. However, in contrast, new policy modulations, beginning with the theatrical one (2015 – 2019), ushered in an era of unfair political and economic competition. By accusing previous modulations of all the problems of the penitentiary system and using negative clichés and insults, theatrical and subsequent modulations, which can also be categorized as theatricality, ensured the formation and implementation of prison and probation policy on a purely declarative basis in the populist fairway. However, the main thing that distinguishes bureaucratic modulations from theatrical ones is that bureaucratic modulations very often chose the political option of "doing nothing" in boundaries of the absence of material resources (or rather were forced to choose). On the contrary, with much more material and information resources, theatrical modulations have moved from doing nothing to unplanned chaotic movements, which they have declared to be a "new prison and probation policy". Regarding the effectiveness and efficiency of the Ukrainian prison and probation policy, as shown above, a comparative analysis of penitentiary criminality, trends in prison and probation population, prison system funding and staffing over the past 10 years leads to the conclusion that Ukrainian prison and probation policy is a failure since the 2016 prison and probation reform. For example, for the period 2009 – 2019 the number of crimes in prisons increased almost 4 times against the background of increasing funding for the penitentiary system by 3,5 times, reducing the number of prisoners by 3 times and increasing the number of staff by 1,2 times. Some questions also arise concerning mortality and suicide rates in prisons, which, despite more than a significant improvement in funding, continue to rise, which in turn serves as further evidence of unsatisfactory performance and effectiveness of the Ukrainian prison and probation policy. Given the above, it can be argued that such a phenomenon as "prison and probation policy" in Ukraine is absent. Yes, we have appropriate management structures, a large staff, an appropriate number of prisoners, convicts and probation clients, as well as a huge budget. However, there is no "policy" based on clear criteria, transparency and statistics, and most importantly, on the assessment of such criteria and corresponding clear assessments.

The research is published in European Political and Law Discourse – www.eppd13.cz

The research can be downloaded here

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