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Russia Passes Law to Employ Prisoners Near Businesses, Drawing Gulag Comparisons

Alexander Nekrasov / TASS

Russian prisoners could soon work at correctional facilities near businesses under a new law that observers were quick to compare to Soviet-era gulag labor camps.

Almost 33,500 out of nearly 550,000 inmates are currently doing time in 123 prison settlements across Russia. These settlements are a type of remote penal colony where prisoners are free to roam the premises under the guards’ watch.

Prisoners convicted of misdemeanors or sentenced to hard labor are now allowed gainful employment at prison branches built near large enterprises, according to new legislation published Thursday.

The amendments to Russia’s Criminal Code say that employers are required to provide living quarters, compensation and medical assistance to the inmates.

The measure’s authors expect to link businesses in need of workers with at least 6,000 inmates and improve inmates’ readiness to re-enter society, according to the Rossiiskaya Gazeta government daily.

The law comes into force on Jan. 1, 2020.

Online observers, including former Yekaterinburg mayor Yevgeny Roizman, reacted to news of the so-called prison branches by comparing them to the gulags.

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