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Wednesday, 24 October, 2001, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
Russian jail goes posh
New cell
The new cells are a far cry from usual standards
The inmates of a new prison in the Russian city of Kursk can look forward to undreamed of luxury - if they can afford it.

Moscow TV 6 says the local authorities in Kursk, south of Moscow, will be offering inmates the chance to pay for luxuries such as a television, refrigerator, and most of all - privacy.

They hope the pay-as-you-serve-time system will turn the new prison into a profit-making enterprise.

There are rich people who would like to be kept in custody in better conditions - since such an opportunity has presented itself, why not?

Prison officer

Russia has one of the largest prison populations in the world, with more than a million inmates in jails across the country. Overcrowding is notorious and HIV and tuberculosis are rife.

So cash-starved local authorities are looking for innovative solutions to the problem of housing, maintaining and feeding the inmates.

In Kursk, the new prison will offer inmates the possibility of buying their privacy. Each cell has two bunks - and well-off inmates can pay for the second bunk and have the cell to themselves.

"There are rich people who would like to be kept in custody in better conditions," a prison official said. "Since such an opportunity has presented itself, why not?"

Grim conditions

The local media are already speculating that the new prison will be more profitable for the city council than building a new apartment block.

Many Russian prisons currently house up to five times the number of inmates they were designed to hold, forcing prisoners to share bunks or to sleep in shifts.

The Justice Ministry says more than 4,000 inmates in Russian prisons have HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

Tuberculosis afflicts another 100,000 prisoners - and up to 10,000 of them die of the disease every year.

TV 6 said that there would be no shortage of paying customers in Kursk. Many of the city's businessmen and officials have been jailed in recent years on corruption charges, it said.

See also:

26 May 00 | Europe
Amnesty for Russian prisoners
24 Jul 00 | Europe
Russian prisoners fish for food
22 Jul 98 | Middle East
Doing time in style
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