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Prison reform in Ukraine (2016): some analytical notes and recommendations

On 10 February 2016, at the joint board of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine and the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine[1] the latter presented a presentation of the upcoming reform of the penitentiary system[2].

The new penitentiary reform aims at total reduction of the central apparatus of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine (the SPS), creation of five inter-regional offices of the prison service instead of traditional regional offices, building of new pre-trial prisons instead of the old establishments, fundamental changes in the prison industry. The most important aspect of the penitentiary reform was taking over by the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine of full responsibility for national prison and probation policy.

On 18 May, 2016 the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine abolished the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine (the SPS) as a central executive body[3] because, on the Ministry of Justice’s opinion, the SPS as a central executive body had not managed to solve a number of systemic problems of the prison system or which, what is more important, had been created by the SPS.

Thus, the Government decided: 1) to abolish the State Penitentiary Service, putting on the Ministry of Justice the tasks and functions of state prison and probation policy; 2) to provide that the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine is the successor of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine in sphere of the public prison and probation policy[4].

On 27 May, 2016, the mentioned above steps were used as a basis for Action Plan of the Government of Ukraine for 2016 (concerning the reform of the penitentiary system).

Taking into account the fact that the Ministry of Justice before and after the reform was responsible for the prison and probation policy[5], in this article we aim to make preliminary analysis of this policy of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, taking into account documents published in February - May 2016.

Rapidly having abolished the SPS, the Ministry of Justice did not presented a clear, transparent and consistent strategy of the prison reform, as well as financial, economic, sociological and criminological justification for each direction of reform.

Given this fact, we will use as a basis for our analysis the official presentation of the Ministry of Justice on prison reform, presented on February 10, 2016 during the joint board of Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Justice.


The paper can be downloaded here

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