14 July 2010
Almost half of the inmates in Russia’s notorious prison system are ill, many infected with HIV or with tuberculosis, the country’s federal prison service said late yesterday.
Of Russia’s 846,000 prisoners, the overwhelming majority of whom are men, just under half are ill, including 55,000 infected with HIV, highlighting the country’s AIDS epidemic which Moscow blames on drug users who inject heroin from nearby Afghanistan.
On its official website, the service’s deputy head, Nikolai Krivolapov, said 40,000 inmates have tuberculosis, 67,500 suffer mental disorders, and 15,000 have syphilis.
“The big picture remains abysmal,” Krivolapov told journalists late yesterday, adding that the numbers have not significantly changed compared to a year ago.
Russia’s crowded, poorly managed prison system came under scrutiny late last year when it admitted to being partly guilty for the death of jailed lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.
Lawyers for the 37–year–old, who was an adviser to Hermitage, once the biggest equity investment fund in Russia, said he was kept in custody illegally and not given proper medical treatment in prison despite repeated requests.
Krivolapov blamed outdated medical equipment for disease and health problems at the prisons, saying three–quarters were obsolete.
Health campaigners have also blamed Russians prisons for the emergence of drug–resistant tuberculosis in recent decades, as inmates fail to complete courses of medication.
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