Modern Russia has dismantled the gulag prison system that was common during the era of the Soviet Union, but too many vestiges of the old remain in the modern. President Dimitry Medvdev struck a blow a the current system which human rights activists claim is rife with corruption and brutality by firing Deputy Justice Minister Yury Kalinin, who heads prisons. Lev Ponomaryov, a leading rights activist in 2008 charged Kallinin with being the “author of a sadistic system of torture” and the courts ordered him to retract the statement or perhaps wind up in a position to obtain first hand evidence about the torture. Just this month, seven St. Petersburg prison officials were charged with using their positions in order to inflict sexual violence on prisoners.
There are over 900,000 people in jail in Russia which is a comparable figure to those incarcerated in the USA. Despite cruelty and abuse in American jails, the situation in Russia is far worse. The issue now is whether Medvedev will appoint someone who seeks to clean up the filth and corruption inherent in Russian prisons.