Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Number of People Detained Is on Rise

Judging by recent statistics, investigators have learned to get around the seemingly stringent new rules for holding suspects: After an initial drop, the number of detentions is creeping up toward pre-reform levels.

Under the new rules, which came into effect July 1 as part of the Kremlin's overhaul of the judicial system, courts were authorized to sanction detentions instead of prosecutors. The courts also were freed from prosecutors' formal supervision.

One aim of the reform's top architect, presidential deputy chief of staff Dmitry Kozak, was to ease overcrowding in the country's disease-ridden pre-trial detention centers.

In the second half of 2002, immediately after the new Criminal Procedural Code took effect, the plan seemed to have worked. According to Supreme Court statistics, Russian courts issued sanctions for the detention of 86,500 people, down nearly 40 percent from the 142,700 detentions sanctioned by prosecutors in the first half of the year. But this year the trend has changed. In the first four months of 2003, courts allowed the detention of 75,000 people. If this pace persists, the number of detainees by mid-year would be 26,000 higher than in the last six months of 2002.

The number of people in pre-trial detention centers is also on the rise. Justice Ministry spokesman Boris Kalyagin said in a recent interview that between July 1 and Nov. 1 of last year the number of detainees dropped from 173,539 to 130,023. But since then, as of May 1, the number has swelled to 147,318.

The renewed growth of the prison population reflects a disturbing pattern, said Supreme Court Deputy Chairman Vladimir Radchenko.

"While Russia has an average of 685 prisoners for every 100,000 people, Britain's average is 125 -- and that's the highest figure for Europe, where the overall average is 70 to 90 people [per 100,000]," Radchenko said.

Next month the Supreme Court plans to prepare a report on the implementation of the new Criminal Procedural Code, chief justice Vyacheslav Lebedev said Tuesday.

Dmitry Yakubovsky -- a controversial lawyer who spent several years in prison in connection with an art theft and then wrote a book of practical advice on how to behave behind bars -- believes the rise in detentions shows that investigators have mastered the new rules of the game and learned to write detention requests the way the courts want to see them.

An investigator from one of Moscow's local prosecutor's offices confirmed Yakubovsky's theory. Initially, the new rules caused some difficulty, said the investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity. But now "we already know which judges are more willing to cooperate with us on the issue of arrest warrants," he said.