Mordovian prison №18: return to slavery?  

Mordovian prison №18: return to slavery?
At the expense of the prisoner Sidorov they completely repaired a two-story barrack with an area of 400 squares, a room for educational work, and toilets Photo: RIA Novosti/Ilya Pitalev

Mordovian prisoners are forced to make repairs, clear the bills and purchase cars for the prison administration.

Mordovian prisoners are forced to make repairs, clear the bills and purchase cars for the prison administration. Viktor Sidorov, convicted in 2010 of drug trafficking and sentenced to 10 years in prison, told Novaya Gazeta about almost legalized slavery in prison number 18. His story began with a cell phone once found during a search in the colony - rules forbid this. Sidorov could face the prospect of transferring to a harsh-conditions regime. Obviously, the prospect was not bright. The first prison deputy chief of the Security and Operational Work Alexander Spirkin seemed to have met the unhappy prisoner half-way and suggested: “Make repairs inside the barrack”. In return the officer promised not only not to transfer him to harsh conditions, but also to help with preparing documents for parole. Sidorov having slept on it agreed to this.

Виктор Сидоров

Viktor Sidorov

The prisoner had some savings from the sale of a house – his uncle kept the money. Sidorov asked his uncle to transfer money to the account of a relative of his prisonmate – he had to purchase and bring to the colony building materials. Dictum – factum! Spirkin coordinated the list of necessary materials directly with the colony chief Vladimir Ermakov. Then he passed it to Sidorov. Sidorov, being an ‘investor’, transferred money to a man out of prison, and he brought materials to the colony. In 2013 the con made purchases for 1 million 300 thousand rubles ($22 thousand) – after that, he said, he ceased to count.

"Which materials were delivered? Tiles, toilets, cement, linoleum – everything you need for repair. I lived in three detachments and invested in repairs in all of them. For example, in the detachment now numbered 5/2 there stands a glass cubicle. So we brought it, it is equipped with a hydromassage, with a phone, it cost 17.5 thousand ($296). I bought a large heater, tiles for 15 square meters. Everything is still there", – Sidorov said.

At the expense of the prisoner they completely repaired a two-story barrack with an area of 400 squares, a room for educational work, and toilets. Meanwhile, the administration continued to put forward new conditions – tough ones as to a real contractor. Sidorov was set the deadline: he was obliged to complete all repairs by September 1, 2013!

"When later they came across me like that, forehead to forehead, I told them: "Guys, you will end up in a bad way, your ingratitude will come back to bite you later". They said: "We are fine, we did it all as humanitarian works". I have receipts for purchases in March, and for humanitarian aid they could do it in April or in May. It is a forgery of documents. My friend served time with me, and his mother brought empty forms here, and they wrote everything they needed, and put all these documents through", – Sidorov shares the details of the scheme.

Administration, it is worth noting, at first kept their promises. Sidorov was removed from harsh conditions and appointed supply manager. Spirkin firmly decided that he found a stable sponsor for the upcoming years. He demanded from Sidorov from 5 to 15 thousand rubles ($84-254) a month – to pay telephone bills of relatives, for fishing and hunting trips, for feasts. Sometimes he voiced specific requests: buy, he says, such a phone, I need to give it to a colleague. Sidorov transferred money to the same friend outside, and he brought gifts and gave them to Spirkin’s people. Spirkin himself was careful and did not accept any gifts personally.

"In general, I paid and paid ... And then Spirkin says: "I need drugs work. Put what you will have, heroin for example, anything you can get. I need it for the performance indicators". They wanted to earn points. I say: "Well, as you say. How much do you need?" He says: "Everything in small portions". Not far from the prison there is an abandoned post of Road Patrol Service. Guys came and buried what he asked for behind this post – phones, drugs. We buried it, and he took it all away. When he asked for heroin, we also put it there", – Sidorov said.

Apparently, during this period Spirkin felt himself a full-blown and unpunished slaveholder and decided to use the prisoner to the full. He offered Sidorov to participate in the operational work to identify drugs (although this is prohibited). Sidorov took part in it until he was offered to throw drugs to disagreeable prisoners.

"And I began to refuse him. And he says: "You are already moving away from us", well, he began to say all sorts of nonsense. I say: "Alexander Semyonovich, anyway I will always be a con, and you are an employee, and they will believe you, not me". He: "Yes, yes. No big deal for me to disclose a couple of cons, nobody will not even say a word", – retells Sidorov.

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The relationship between the prisoner and the officer finally deteriorated when the latter suggested throwing drugs to a friend of Sidorov.

"He served 15 years. And Spirkin says: "I need him at any cost. Throw drugs to him somewhere in his belongings, because you are admitted as a supply manager". I say: "I will not do this, because I am serving term for this myself, and I know what it is, I will not set a person up". Spirkin says:  “Then are you not with me? Well, look, I'll set up both of you". I say: "Well, this is your business, I do not betray friends", – recalls Sidorov.

A bit later Spirkin gave a ‘chance’ to the con to fix the spoiled relationship – he suggested adding half a million rubles ($8.4 thousand) for a new car. Sidorov resolutely refused thus having distanced himself from parole for an unattainable distance. Spirkin was terrible in his revenge: the prisoner became a frequent guest of solitary, he was sent there for the slightest fault. And in November 2015 Sidorov was transferred to strict conditions for a year.

Viktor Sidorov realized that there could hardly be anything worse, and decided to take a desperate step – to violate the common-thief drug ban established in prison №18. This allowed him to transfer to prison №11 – away from greedy Spirkin.

"I was transferred to prison №11 on November, 15 last year. In December 2016 there was a half-term. I could submit documents for parole. But, of course, I cannot have any parole. We are working material for them, they will squeeze everything out of us, and then they will do what they need", – the prisoner believes.

Human rights activists now considering Sidorov's statement became interested in outrage in the prison.

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