New Ukrainian Fashion: Gift Voucher for Prison

In the current Ukrainian government, there is a two-headed Hydra – the so-called “Poroshenko bots” (nationalists, supporters of the course of former President Poroshenko) and “Sorosites” (liberals associated with international funds, members of Zelensky’s party). It is even easier to distinguish them from each other than Whigs from Tories, Guelphs from Ghibellines, or Democrats from Republicans.

“Poroshenko bots” advocate national discrimination and a police state, but so that financial flows flow to local oligarchs. “Sorosites”, on the contrary, are in favour of national discrimination and a police state, but so that the money goes abroad. And if the “Poroshenko bots”, being in power, just put in the old harsh prisons those who disagreed with their policies, then the “Sorosites” can not do this. The prisons they put dissenters in have to be trendy and creative.

Such they were obliged to make the Minister of Justice Denis Malyuska, who made his way to the government of Ukraine from a certain BRDO expert and analytical centre (a structure of the World Bank and the government of Canada).

So, Ukrainian prisons are bad. Bad not because they are prisons and not resorts, but because there is a fierce horror. A recent inspection of the Ombudsman’s office in a Kropivnitsky (former Kirovograd) jail showed that most of the cells require repair, there is no normal lighting, excessive barred windows, terrible condition of bathrooms, no tanks with drinking boiled water, no ventilation, not enough living space for one prisoner, no doctors…

Since I happened to spend more than a year in the Zaporozhye jail on a falsified charge of encroaching on the territorial integrity of Ukraine and aiding terrorists, such information is, frankly, not news to me. But it is surprising that the Ombudsman noticed such things. To my memory, the checks of the representatives of the Commissioner for Human Rights took place like this: the door to the cell opens (it is iron, therefore it is called a “robot”), a young man in civilian life and an operative in uniform appear on the edge.

“Any complaints or suggestions?” the operative asks.

“No,” they all say in unison.

The robot closes, sorry, the door slams, and the delegation moves on. But I want to say a lot: there is not enough bunks and prisoners have to sleep in shifts, there is no glass in the window (in the autumn you insert a film there, and in the winter you hang a blanket there), you shower once a week and not always with hot water, there are worms in food, half of the books from the library, which you can’t get into, had been used for cigarettes. And this is just the beginning. But try telling me there are complaints. Then you will get regular shakedowns for this, and not from the series “stop by to chat”, but in an adult way – so as to deprive you and your cellmates of something very important and necessary from things. And almost all important and necessary things, as you understand, are officially prohibited. Cutting objects, for example, without which you can’t make a banal sandwich, not to mention a mobile phone for communicating with your family. So for the Ombudsman, everything was always normal for us, and it seemed to suit him.

But nevertheless, they did a normal check, said that, of course, it is possible to live like this, but not for long, and Minister Malyuska started magical (as it should be for “Sorosites”) reforms. Firstly, since April, the pre-trial detention centre has started to open “paid increased comfort cells” in order to raise money for the repair of “reduced comfort cells”. Naturally, no one is counting on a budget for these purposes. According to the minister, “there are rumours” about comfortable rooms in the pre-trial detention centre that are provided to prisoners “for a bribe”. So let’s put these bribes not into the pocket of the “owner” of the prison, but into a special fund for the repair of “free” cells! It’s like – if we will not win, so we will lead!

I will competently say that it’s not rumours that concern “increased comfort cells”, but big money. In the first months of my incarceration, when it was absolutely unbearable, my wife, out of pure naivety, approached the girls at the reception of broadcasts with a question about such cells. They almost choked there, and then, making their eyes look like saucers and surreptitiously twirling their fingers at their temples, hinted that it was not necessary to ask about such things – let the prisoners decide such things from the inside. And some still decide. There are cells for 10 people, where one lives, there are cells with a bar, a refrigerator, a slow cooker, a shower and a boiler, a lot of things.

Access to the Internet in such conditions is implied by itself. Well, as a bonus, if the citizen is absolutely authoritative and wealthy (“fat goose”), it’s possible to take them home for dinner in the evening. I’ve seen it before, too. In short, the talk that official paid cells will greatly help in the fight against corruption is a fad and a complete misunderstanding of the situation. Wealthy simpletons will pay for them, to whom the administration of the pre-trial detention centre (and the prisoners too) will find how to promote something else.

Authoritative people do not want to go there – they are afraid of wiretapping. Yes, they will establish a normal life with their own methods. And those who do not have money, as they sat in tiny showers without basic living conditions, will continue to stay in jail, even if they paint the walls with the accumulated money and install new mattresses without bedbugs.

In Zaporozhye, by the way, an official “cell of increased comfort” costs 570 hryvnia per day, 1990 hryvnia per week, and 3410 hryvnia per month. I.e., it is more profitable to use one for more time. I wanted to continue to joke about a subscription, but instead of me, it was Minister Malyuska who joked:

“Did you invite an official or a politician to your birthday party? Still thinking about the gift? We know the way out! Today, the Ministry of Justice offers a new service – gift vouchers for using paid cells in Ukrainian pre-trial detention centres! Give your friends a gift voucher, and if they are taken into custody, they will be able to get into a cell with improved conditions of detention!

For your convenience, you can buy a voucher directly from your computer or smartphone: click on this link, choose a pre-trial detention centre, choose the number of days of imprisonment, pay for the service, print the voucher and receipt, which will be sent to your email, and the gift is ready! Remember, the voucher is only valid for six months after purchase.

If you are not taken into custody within the specified period, the funds are credited as charitable assistance to the appropriate detention facility. We are focused on clients: location in the city centre, around-the-clock security, reduced risks of catching coronavirus, the ability to distract oneself via social networks and gadgets, three meals a day.”

No, this is not a joke. Here is the website of the Ministry of Justice about the same. Officially, this is called “services in advance”. The application can be submitted both in writing and via the automated system “Online House of Justice”. So if someone feels a sin behind themselves or behind someone else – welcome to the link. The number of seats is limited. If they are not there by the time of your arrival, the administration of the pre-trial detention centre will refund your money. Well, or make an agreement, as you can, on the spot. The old schemes also work.

But what should a citizen do if they really want to feel themselves in a role of a real convict, and don’t have corresponding sins yet? The creative Minister has a solution again! He offers to make the Lukyanovo jail in Kiev a hotel, stylised as a prison. “If we succeed, it will be a tourist bomb. Especially it’s not far from the centre,” said the Minister Malyuska.

Prisons that are not of historical value can be sold. Especially frozen prisons, of which there are now 26 in Ukraine. You need to spend money on their maintenance even in this form, so in early June, the corresponding bill was introduced. According to it, 70% of the sale of old “bad” prisons in the central areas of cities will be spent on building new “good” ones outside the city or in the industrial zone, i.e., where land is cheaper. And in the centre it will be possible to build another shopping and entertainment centre.

The Minister did a good job, thought about the profit, but for some reason did not think about the relatives of prisoners, about old grandmothers and working day and night husbands and wives (after all, there is a need to maintain two), who will have to get with tons of food and things for transfers to God knows where, God knows how, and God knows when.

Of course, pre-trial detention centres are a social abscess, where human rights are violated in the wildest way, where people who have not yet been convicted suffer worse than those who have been convicted for years. They need to be put in order, and maybe even demolished under the foundations, and build new, human ones. But what the creative Minister Malyuska does with supposedly good intentions is not even funny.

No, on the one hand it is very funny, but it is too indecent to openly laugh at it. It will become worse for people. Convicts are human, aren’t they?

Pavel Volkov

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