Human rights activists and lawyers have created Grey Zone — a map of cases of viral respiratory diseases in Russian prison colonies and pre-trial detention facilities. The Public Verdict Foundation told 7x7 about it.
All reports are displayed on the map in online mode. Project’s moderators are informed by prisoners, their relatives, media, and official structures. Only reports that have been confirmed by several sources are shown on the map. Human rights activists submit requests to the Federal Penal Correction Service and the Prosecutor's office on each fact with a demand to verify the stated facts, to ensure the safety of prisoners and employees of the facilities. When they get the answers, the status of the information is updated.
The website contains samples of applications to the Federal Penal Correction Service, the Prosecutor's office, and the medical and health facility of the Federal Penal Correction Service for independent requests for official information about the epidemiological situation in a prison colony or pre-trial detention facility. Website users can inform moderators of any known cases of COVID-19 in federal penitentiary institutions.
The map was created by the Moscow Helsinki Group, Citizens' Watch, the Ural Human Rights Group, the Public Verdict Foundation, the Centre for Support of International Protection, attorneys Vera Goncharova, Irina Biryukova, Karinna Moskalenko, Maria Sernovets, and lawyer Yana Gelmel.
The project's website says that jails, prison colonies, and pre-trial detention facilities are a "big grey zone" from where news "hardly" reaches the outside world. The office of the Federal Penal Correction Service rarely confirms any data about cases of the new virus, but reports about infected prisoners and employees come from all over Russia, and media regularly publish materials about the adverse epidemic situation in Russian "zones", the authors of the map note.
"The current habit of information blockade and of total secrecy of the Federal Penal Correction Service's facilities, especially during the epidemic, is unacceptable and should be stopped," the authors of the project believe. "Courts have never sentenced anyone to no medical care, especially in the context of a global epidemic. We are sure that all data should be open and available now more than ever before."
It became known on April 30 that two cases of coronavirus infection were detected in Pre-Trial Detention Facility 1 in Petrozavodsk. But the Supreme Court of Karelia denied an appeal of the defense of 64-year-old local history expert Yury Dmitriev on his custody extension. More than 150 artists demanded Dmitriev’s release.
On May 14, the office of the Federal Penal Correction Service for Pskov Oblast introduced new restrictions in Detention Facility 1 due to an employee having coronavirus and forbade visiting prisoners. Activist Artyom Milushkin from Pskov, accused of drug dealing, has been held in the facility since January 2019.
In April, Pre-Trial Detention Facility 1 in Yoshkar-Ola was quarantined for two weeks after an employee of the facility allegedly died. The press service of the department refused to mention the word "quarantine".