Fazenda in the name of Federal Penitentiary Service 

Fazenda in the name of Federal Penitentiary Service
Photo: The CrimeRussia

Soon the prisoners in the colonies of the Leningrad Region will be able to try themselves in a new role and master hard farm work. The Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS, FSIN) is going to start growing vegetables and fruits on the lands belonging to the colonies. Despite the promise of the idea, a logical question arises in society – whether convicts will become heroes of the labor series Slave Izaura.

Patience and work

The Federal Penitentiary Service Directorate in St. Petersburg and Leningrad region has reached the finish line with its idea of helping farmers. Before the May holidays, Chief Engineer of the Federal Penitentiary Service Directorate, Dmitry Novoselsky, discussed with the President of the “Trading House of Farmers and Agricultural Producers of the Leningrad Region and St. Petersburg” the nuances of the cooperation agreement. A similar agreement was concluded by the FPS with the Center for the Development and Support of Entrepreneurship in St. Petersburg in November 2018. Cooperation, according to experts of the executive system, promises to be productive. Farmers will have the opportunity to use cheap labor and not be afraid of the dashing visits of inspectors of various stripes, and the FPS in the long term will have the opportunity to ensure state order and employment of convicts.

Dmitry Novoselsky

Chief Engineer of the Federal Penitentiary Service Directorate Dmitry Novoselsky (second left)

The idea of fruitful use of land belonging to the colonies as farmland, in the literal sense of the word, is actively advocated by the former governor of St. Petersburg, Senator Valentina Matvienko. Not so long ago, at the parliamentary hearings in the upper house of parliament, Valentina Ivanovna stated that “the labor of convicts can be used within the framework of the state and municipal order”. According to her, penitentiary institutions need to expand alternative approaches to the use of labor of convicts, taking into account the specifics of the institutions of the penitentiary system.” 

Valentina Matvienko

Valentina Matvienko

Joint business with farmers is practically a godsend for the entire executive system as a whole. The cost of the final product in the end goes to 20% more economical, due to low wages. In addition, no one will check this wage, and the conditions of labor itself. Such inspection authorities practically do not go to prisons.

So far we are talking about the development of small plots of land, up to 10 hectares. In such areas you cannot only grow vegetables, but also engage in poultry farming, beekeeping. The volumes of products supplied from such an economy are quite suitable for small markets. The leadership of the FPS goes even further – it offers businessmen to also master processing industries in prisons and colonies. This means that soon residents of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region will not only be able to feast on fresh cucumbers, but also see jam and pickles on the shelves. 


According to the FPS, for the first quarter of 2019, goods were produced on the orders of small and medium-sized businesses for 92.5 million rubles($1.43mln) (in 2018 – for 90.6 million ($1.4mln)). Total colony of St. Petersburg and Leningrad region from January to March 2019 provided services to the business by 178 million rubles ($2.75mln), which is 30% more than last year.

For the time being, farm owners treat the proposal of the penitentiary system thoughtfully. On the one hand, the problem of passing seven circles of administrative hell to obtain land for private agriculture is completely eliminated. But on the other hand, businessmen will hardly be able to control such production, and it will be very difficult to ask hold the FPS accountable for the quality. In addition, businessmen carefully pronounce the word "kickbacks." As the old-timers in business forums write, no one can give any guarantee that, for servicing state orders high ranks of the FPS will not shake farmers like a pear.   

"You go to prison" 

The epic idea of gaining from cheap labor of prisoners has been wandering in the higher minds of the executive system for more than a year. Last spring, for example, the colony-settlement No. 3 of the FPS (Arkhangelsk region) was generally ahead of the curve by signing a contract with the Arkhangelsk Sea Port for the supply of labor. Now the convicts are actively mastering the stevedore business, working in the container terminal. One day of labor of the convict thus costs the port 810 rubles ($12.5). This amount includes all taxes that the employer is required to pay to the state. This is 4 times cheaper than the labor of a hired port worker. Thus, prisoners are charged salaries based on the minimum wage, which is 4-5 times lower than in the regular labor market.

In general, the FPS is actively mastering the science of leasing the labor of convicts. There is already a positive experience of labor of prisoners in the processing of municipal solid waste, furniture and carpentry production. Also, according to the Federal Penitentiary Service, the convicts are engaged in the production of metal products, machinery, tailoring and footwear, as well as the traditional business of this sector - logging. Altogether, eight institutions offer business services today: correctional colonies Nos. 2,3, 4, 5, 6, 7, as well as Kresty and production facilities based on the Kolpinsky educational colony for minors. 


Kresty prison


Every year, correctional institutions produce products, perform work and provide services in the amount of more than 32 billion rubles ($495.2mln). In total, the correctional facilities of St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region contain more than 12 thousand convicts, of whom 3595 convicts work for a salary.

But the penitentiary system has intensified seriously in this matter only in recent months. Right now the institutions of the FPS began to offer their services to the business. What is the reason for such activation? It is not yet clear. But some sources attribute this to the really impending possibility of a complete reorganization of the penitentiary system, which has long outlived itself.

Five years in three years 

Today, the FPS in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region proposes to the city business to master 17 thousand square meters of production space, without rent. True, the entrepreneurs themselves will have to pay for electricity, utilities and provide logistics for the delivery of raw materials to the shipment of finished goods, as well as pay the wages of convicts and taxes to the state. In this case, however, not very big. Profit for business is downright direct. But whether there is a benefit for the prisoners themselves is a big question.


As is known, convicts, especially those who are serving time in settlement colonies, cannot refuse to work. This is stated in Part 1 of Art. 103 of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation. Otherwise, the measure of restraint can be changed for the prisoner with restrictions on imprisonment. This means that if the colony has contracted with any company, then the prisoner will not have a choice of the form of labor, even if he is a linguist with knowledge of languages, he will load the cars together with everyone. This point of the law is without a doubt a huge plus for the FPS. But the points of the Labor Code here, as a rule, do not work. Nobody will control observance of working conditions of the cons. As they say in human rights forums dedicated to prisoners, this is a new legalized form of slavery.

“No one can be sure that the money he earned during the years of his imprisonment will not turn into a pumpkin when leaving the colony,” they write there, “while you are in prison, you will not receive a penny. IK manage the entire accounting department. The prisoner’s salary is charged for clothes, shoes, electricity, etc., and fines for bad behavior are written off from here, and so on. Your salary can be seen only after being released, or after leaving for parole. Nobody knows how this bookkeeping is conducted there, and there are a lot of chances to get nothing instead of money.”

In addition, the problem of authoritative people in the area is acute. “They never worked and do not work. They will make others work for them. Thus, simple convicts will work for free not for 8 hours, but 15 hours each for the FPS, someone else’s uncle and crime bosses.”


But there are also supporters of such intensification of cooperation between the FPS and business. “This is a chance for many to get a profession, they write on the forums, and, if you recommend yourself well, you can go out and not be left without work, but continue to work in the same farm, for example. The employer will already know you and will not expel you for having a criminal record.”

However, the public, represented by the Public Council under the Federal Penitentiary Service, has long offered the FPS to increase the efficiency of labor utilization of convicts. According to the commission, working prisoners will be able to repay debts on claims and reimburse moral and material damage to victims. How successful the joint work of the Federal Penitentiary Service and farmers will be, and how edible fruits and vegetables will be, we can find out this fall.



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