Social Center for Criminal Justice Reform

A holding cell at one of Moscow's pre-
trial detention centers. This cell is a typical
"communal" cell for the pretrial centers
located in Russian large cities.
Luchnikov per.,4, apt. 24, 26
101000 Moscow
Tel: 7(095) 206-82-76; 206-86-84; 206-81-45
Fax: 7(095) 206-86-58; 206-88-53
URL: (Russian Windows/1251 Fonts)

Director: Valery Abramkin
Coordinator of Information Center and Network: Valery Sergeev
Coordinator of "Oblaka" Radio Program: Sergei Sayapin

The Center defines its main goal "to build in Russia an effective system of criminal justice, establishing principles of social justice, crime prevention, the personal safety of citizens, and a humane manner of imprisonment."

First organized in 1988 under the name "Imprisonment and Liberty", the name was changed in 1991 to "The Social Center for Humanizing the Penitentiary System". Finally, in August of 1993 the organization was officially registered as a non-profit, non-partisan group under the name "The Social Center for Criminal Justice Reform" (sometimes referred to in English as the Moscow Center for Prison Reform).

The group maintains working relations with various governmental bodies, including the Presidential Commission on Human Rights, the Presidential Commission on Judicial Reform, the State Legal Administration and the Presidential Administration. Activities in the past have included presentation of a report to Parliament in 1992 entitled "On Carrying Out Changes and Additions to the Corrective Labor Code, the Criminal Code and the Criminal Justice Code of the RSFSR". In 1994, the Center presented a list of proposed federal actions in the sphere of human rights before Parliament.

The Center works together with local and federal criminal justice agencies in Russia on structural and legislative reform of the criminal justice system. One main goal is to create a mechanism which allows for a degree of citizen oversight of law enforcement bodies and penitentiary institutions. The organization also advocates the rights of the imprisoned, both collectively and on a case-by-case basis. Center volunteers provide legal and spiritual counseling for prisoners, making regular visits to prisons and camps. The Center also directs sociological research on criminal justice issues.

Special Projects:

"Oblaka" (Clouds) Weekly Radio Program on Radio Rossiya
This weekly hour-long radio program is aimed primarily at the prison population, providing information on prison reforms, legal issues effecting prison conditions and treatment of prisoners, stories from prisons and labor camps around Russia, general information on human rights work and human rights groups in Russia, and other material with both practical and entertainment value. Research surveys estimate that nearly 8% of the population of Russia listens to the program (this is not counting the prison population). On average, the Center receives 300-500 letters each month from radio listeners.

Specialized Information Center:

"The Individual in the Criminal Justice System"
With financial assistance from the European Union Phare/Tacis Program, the Center has begun to develop an in-office library of materials relating to comparative criminal justice and issues facing the Russian penitentiary system. In this endeavor, the Center participates with the Moscow Research Center for Human Rights Information Network Project. In 1996, the Center plans to publish a manual, How to Help the Imprisoned, for human rights activists and people concerned with prisoners' rights. To improve on this ongoing project, the Center seeks to expand their use of information and communications technology (including e-mail and the Internet), enhancing their research in the field of criminal justice around the regions of Russia and increasing the number of their regional and international contacts.


In Aid to Prisoners: How to Survive in a Soviet Prison
(1992, Krasnoyarsk) In Russian. 192 pages. This book covers practical issues of personal safety and health maintenance for the prison population. It also includes a social and historical description of the Soviet system of incarceration. Over 30,000 copies of this book have been distributed to prisoners and their families at no cost.

Letters From the Zones (December 1991)
(1992, Moscow) In Russian. 36 pages. A collection of letters from prisoners describing life and conditions in prisons and camps across Russia.

Tuberculosis in Russian Prisons and Camps
(1992, Moscow) In Russian and English. 14 pages.

Prison Reform in Former Totalitarian Countries: Papers From the International Conference, vols.1-2
(1993, Moscow) In Russian and English. Approximately 80 pages each.

Human Rights Abuses During Arrest and Detainment, vol. 1
(1994, Moscow) In Russian and English. 80 pages.

Criminal Russia: Prisons and Camps
A 10-volume series. In Russian.

This organizational description was sent to CCSI from Colleen F. Halley.

The NIS Third Sector Organization section is based on information found in the print edition of "The Post-Soviet Handbook." For more information on the Handbook and instructions on how to order, see our Post Soviet Handbook Information page.

Sponsored by:
Center for Civil Society International
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Last updated: March 1996