Kazakhstan Significantly Reduces Prison Population

ASTANA – As the result of a campaign to humanise criminal legislation, the number of prisoners in Kazakhstan has fallen by 30 percent in five years, Zakon.kz reports.

Photo credit: zakon.kz

Photo credit: zakon.kz

“The Ministry of Internal Affairs, headed by Minister Kulmukhanbet Kassymov, recently held a board meeting with the participation of the management staff of the central office and the committee and the regional departments of the penal system,” the report said, citing the ministry’s press service. The top priority on the agenda was reviewing the activities of the Committee of the Correctional System of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the first nine months of 2016 and priorities for the near future.

The ministry’s press service also stated that as a result of “humanisation of criminal legislation and the application of punishments by the courts not related to deprivation of liberty, there is … a sharp reduction of persons held in detention. In 2016, the number decreased by 17 percent, and over the past five years by more than 30 percent.”

Today, there are more than 22,500 individuals on parole in Kazakhstan, being closely watched by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. For comparison, in 2015 there were only 12,300 people. Some 30,797 programmes have been developed for parolees, and about 4,000 convicts have been successfully employed; 10,108 have been provided medical aid and 188 have received education. The recurring crime rate by the same convicts fell by 7 percent.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs has drafted a concept of Public-Private Partnership “Creating a system of electronic surveillance,” which will monitor the location and control the activities of the convicts. Now the draft laws “On Probation” and on related amendments and additions to some legislative acts of Kazakhstan are under consideration in Parliament.

There are 104 educational institutions in the penitentiary system in the country, while about 1,200 prisoners received secondary education graduation certificates. About 3,000 people are being trained in various specialties.

The growth in employment of convicts was noted during the meeting as well. The production of apparel products, building materials, metal and wood processing, agricultural, food and animal products have been set up. Five new types of production were set up this year.

Back in 2013, the government held its first forum in an effort to improve the penitentiary system and reduce the number of inmates. The project was called “Ten steps to reduce the number of inmates.” Later, a new forum announced a new project hoping to stimulate employment of inmates in prisons. The third forum, in 2015, tackled perhaps the most complex issue: re-socialisation of convicts.

Earlier this year the government announced a major review of the penitentiary system in the country.

First Vice Rector of the Academy of Law Enforcement Agencies under the General Prosecutor’s Office of Kazakhstan Erkin Ongarbayev highlighted that Kazakhstan raised its overall rating and was ranked 55th in the world, while courts “started using verdicts without imprisonment.” He stressed the vital point was “restriction of freedom” as opposed to full deprivation.