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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

What Khodorkovsky Can Expect in Prison

Sharing communal sleeping quarters with 100 other men and receiving a monthly spending allowance of less than $100 may be an odd living proposition for Mikhail Khodorkovsky, once the country's wealthiest businessman.

But Khodorkovsky, who was sentenced to nine years in a medium-security prison on fraud and tax evasion charges this week, will probably be able to use his deep pockets to override the Penal Code and improve his life behind bars, penal experts said Wednesday.

Prisons may even be lining up in hope of welcoming him, said Naum Nim, editor of the magazine Nevolye, which deals with prison life.

"Prison administrators are probably holding a contest to see who gets Khodorkovsky. They know he can pay for repairs and maybe even a new fitness room that he can work out in," Nim said.

Khodorkovsky will not be moved from the Matrosskaya Tishina detention facility, where he has been held since his arrest in late 2003, until all court appeals have been exhausted, perhaps late this year. Also, he cannot be moved if prosecutors file new charges against him, as they have promised.

Khodorkovsky's business partner Platon Lebedev, who was also sentenced this week to nine years, expressed fears Wednesday that the two could end up being murdered in prison, Interfax reported.

A Federal Penal Service spokesman declined to comment on the specifics of the life that Khodorkovsky faces in prison, but under the Penal Code, inmates in medium-security prisons are required to live in communal quarters. Between 20 and 100 inmates live and sleep together in each room, said Valery Abramkin, director of the Moscow Center for Prison Reform, a nongovernmental organization.

Khodorkovsky will be allowed to spend three times the amount of the monthly minimum wage -- a total of 2,160 rubles -- on food and other basic necessities, and he can receive six small packages and six large packages per year. Furthermore, he will be granted six short visits -- up to four hours at a time and conducted by telephone through a glass barrier -- and four long visits of up to three days per year.

Khodorkovsky will have to reserve ahead of time a special room set aside for long visits, Abramkin said.

"Sometimes they let prisoners even spend their long visits outside of the prison, in a hotel, for example," Abramkin said. "But I don't think they will allow Khodorkovsky to do that."

As far as using his managerial skills in prison, it is unlikely that Khodorkovsky would agree to a job as a supervisor of other inmates' work, Abramkin said. "A job like that won't earn you respect from other prisoners. They are seen as tools of the prison administration," he said. "A job as a prison librarian, on the other hand, would be fine."

After six months, the prison administration could grant Khodorkovsky some privileges for good behavior: six long visits, 12 large and 12 small packages per year, and an unlimited spending allowance.

The initial small allowance is unlikely to affect Khodorkovsky, Nim said. "With his money, he will be able to buy himself special conditions. I'm sure he could bribe someone for a separate room," he said.

Federal Penal Service spokesman Alexei Voronov denied that Khodorkovsky would get any special treatment. "We don't make any exceptions for prisoners. He will do time like everyone else," Voronov said in remarks published in Komsomolskaya Pravda on Wednesday.

Nim said prisons were divided into two categories: "black" prisons and "red" prisons.

Life and order in black prisons are regulated and enforced by crime bosses who are serving time, he said. "The crime bosses tell the prison authorities that they will keep everyone in line on one condition: Don't interfere with our methods," Nim said.

Red prisons are controlled by prison authorities who use a network of "snitches" among the prisoners to uncover infractions and dish out punishments, Nim said.

Nim said Khodorkovsky would almost certainly be placed in a red prison in order to keep a watchful eye over his activities.

"It will be much worse for him than a black prison," he said. "The snitches will be all over him, offering to do jobs for him in exchange for money. Then they will report every move he makes."

If Khodorkovsky remains at Matrosskaya Tishina for the indefinite future, as is likely, he will find it much more difficult to conduct his affairs, Nim said. "In a detention facility, every letter you write can be seized by prosecutors as evidence," he said. "Sure there is a censor in prison, but basically he can write as many letters as he wants and go on with business as usual."

NTV television reported Wednesday that Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev were likely to be placed in a Moscow region prison. Their destination will be decided by a commission that includes the warden of Matrosskaya Tishina, NTV said.