Submitting documents to the Public Chamber of the Russian Federation to turn me into the ranks of the Public Monitoring Committee, I wasn’t well aware of all the basic principles of its activity, despite the fact that I was quite closely familiarized with the extensive activities of the Murmansk region PMC. My governing motive was the fact that a man is almost naked in front of the state in prison and is often unable to withstand this clash without external interference, and it means that he needs help. But it turned out to be more complicated...
In fact, the PMC is a tool for public oversight (what we actually do in the Joint Public Observations Group). But we supervise the execution of the observance of human rights and freedom not in detention, but at public events and hearings, as an independent third party. For the purposes of supervising we don’t need anyone's permission or mandate. And it seems to me that this "none-mandate" total control of citizens over the government will bring us closer to this ephemeral rule-of-law state.
Most recently, seminar for members of the Murmansk PMC was held in Murmansk; it was also attended by the FPS members. This workshop had radically turned my comprehension of the PMC work, special thanks for the noble member of the PMC of Komi Igor Sazhin, a member of the PMC of the Nizhny Novgorod Region Sergei Shimovolos and Paykacheva Irina, whom the FPS periodically tries to limit access to places of detention.
First, we tried to understand the function of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Federal Penitentiary Service: Federal Penitentiary — isolation and socialization, MIA — insulation and temporary alimony. Thus, the FPS should ideally serve as a place where the inmate will be able to "turn over a new leaf" and after the expiration of his imprisonment he would have had opportunities to ensure that society doesn’t reject him (healthy society should also be interested in the former prisoner to be quickly and painlessly socialized). But the caste system of prisons, often inhumane prison conditions, a small percentage of public awareness activity in regard to human rights, catastrophically small amount of social institutions of former prisoners lead to the fact that the percentage of recidivism in Russia is 60-80%. It’s frightening.
How does the Public Monitoring Committee work? It comes in places of detention with a very simple goal: to identify the conflict zone (poor lighting, lack of walking yards, overcrowding, abuse, etc.) and do everything to repress it. I think that when the FPS and MIA will realize the importance of this service of the PMC, our cooperation would change, it would become more constructive and humane.
I would also like to note the basic principles of the PMC, identified by our group:
— priority of human rights
— "do no harm"
— ability to hear
— do not comply with stereotypes
— focus on reality
— openness (considering policy)
— criticize — suggest
It is worth noting that each member of the PMC prioritizes the issue of “What's more important: not to harm or to observe the legitimacy and priority of human rights?” for himself. Our team was balanced with a focus on the rights and independence, which means that the PMC doesn’t fulfill someone's abstract public order (requests of mothers, grandmothers — grandfathers, people who ask to help their detained friends). The PMC fulfill a single public order — the law of the Russian Federation, which governs its operation.
Russian penitentiary system is a complex, multifaceted, unstable mechanism. We can argue a lot about the effectiveness and necessity of the modern penal system, and I don’t know what's better: to build a new one or to fix the old and make it work. But I do know that the PMC can help us to reduce the percentage of violence and aggression, which is prevalent in places of detention; as any small closed system is similar to a big system, it means that if we clean up in prisons, it would be clean in society in general.
And yes, some of the members of our committee from January 8-11 will raid during New year’s night in places of detention of the Murmansk region: IK-20 Zelenoborskiy, detention center and TCC in Polarnie Zori, jail-2 Apatity, jail-1 Murmansk. I will inform about the results later!