Life imprisonment - comments from a Federal Judge / MIP Law Group

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Life imprisonment – ​​free answers from lawyers online

How many years is a life sentence in Russia?

After changes to Art. 24 of December 17, 1992, it became possible to replace the death penalty with life imprisonment in special institutions with special conditions of detention. The convicted person serves his sentence from the moment the sentence comes into force until his biological death.

Until 1996, life imprisonment was not considered as an independent type of punishment, so the court could not pass such a sentence; it was used as a pardon/alternative to execution for committing particularly serious crimes.

In 2004, amendments were made to Article 57 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Courts were given the opportunity to sentence prisoners to life in prison for certain categories of serious crimes. The life sentence is generally considered to be 25 years.

Conditions and terms of serving the sentence

The law establishes a special procedure for serving a life sentence by a criminal.

During the first ten years, the culprit is kept under strict conditions . The cell in which prisoners live, as a rule, accommodates two people, and they are necessarily selected according to psychological indicators, for the purpose of mutual coexistence.

Labor activity is mandatory for criminals, but it takes place directly in the cell, without the prisoner leaving the cell. The offender can leave the cell for a walk, the time of which is limited to 1.5 hours a day . If the prisoner behaves well, this time can be increased to 2 hours.

Life-sentenced prisoners receive the right to a daily one-and-a-half-hour walk

The offender is allowed to purchase various goods only with money actually earned during labor. Visits for prisoners are limited to four hours twice a year, and they take place under the supervision of prison staff.

If established conditions are violated, the prisoner may be transferred to solitary confinement . If, on the contrary, he complied with all the instructions of the colony, then he can be transferred to the normal regime, which implies expanded opportunities for visits, work and increased walking time. Regular stay lasts 10 years. After this decade and in the absence of any violations, the offender is assigned to a light regime colony.

In general, the offender is required to serve his sentence until death. You can find out about penalties for insulting a person here.

Extenuating circumstances

When assigning capital punishment to a prisoner, the court takes into account all the circumstances of the case. The following are considered as softening agents:

  • Confession and assistance to the investigation at all stages;
  • Expiration of the statute of limitations for the committed act;
  • Providing first aid to the victim;
  • Special circumstances that are contained in the list of Article 64 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

Criminals who have not completed the crime or who were previously given a lenient verdict by the court can also count on a reduced sentence.

Is it possible to appeal the verdict?

In what cases can life sentence prisoners receive a pardon? Some of these mitigating circumstances include:

  1. Self-presentation of the person who committed the crime to law enforcement agencies.
  2. Assisting the police in their investigation, cooperating with the court and providing all necessary information.
  3. An attempt to provide first aid to a person against whom a crime has been committed.
  4. The crime was not completed.
  5. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty .
  6. The statute of limitations for the crime has expired .

Exceptional circumstances are also taken into account, such as:

  • during the crime, the perpetrator was under pressure - moral or physical - which was carried out as a result of official, financial or other dependence;
  • the victim’s behavior caused the crime to be committed, namely, was illegal or immoral;
  • the crime was committed out of compassion or under the influence of certain life circumstances;
  • the offender has young children;
  • the crime was committed during the execution of an order or other official duties, including during an operation to neutralize a criminal.

In addition, the life sentence itself can act as a pardon if it was appointed by the President of the Russian Federation instead of the death penalty.

In certain cases, life-sentenced persons receive pardon

However, aggravating circumstances may also emerge . Among them:

  1. Repetition of previously committed crimes (recidivism).
  2. Grave consequences resulting from an unlawful act.
  3. The crime was carried out by a group of persons by prior conspiracy or by a group of persons who are members of a criminal organization.
  4. If the motive for the crime was political, racial, ideological, national, religious hatred.
  5. The crime was committed to cover up another crime committed earlier.
  6. The victim turned out to be a pregnant woman or other persons dependent on the criminal.
  7. The victim was subjected to torture and other types of torture, and so on.

An exhaustive list of aggravating circumstances is given in Article 63 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.

What are they giving for?

Currently, people are sentenced to life imprisonment (Article 57 of the Criminal Code) if their actions endanger:

  • public and external security (for example, in the form of a terrorist act resulting in the death of people, or aimed at blowing up nuclear facilities or using weapons of this category - Article 205 of the Criminal Code);
  • human life (murder - Part 2 of Article 105 of the Criminal Code);
  • moral and sexual integrity (Article 131 of the Criminal Code).

They cannot be sentenced to such a measure:

  • women;
  • juvenile offenders;
  • men who were sixty-five years of age at the time of sentencing.

He is also not appointed if the jury decides that the culprit is not such a villain and deserves leniency, if the accused agreed to cooperate with the investigation before trial, as well as for an unfinished crime.

No grumbling, no condemnation, no complaints about poor nutrition

Having met with the condemned believers, I was literally shocked - God has never been as close to me as
God is close to a suffering person. And life prisoners are no exception, despite the fact that they suffer for their terrible deeds. But, of course, only those who seek God and do not persist, begin to think and repent of their atrocities can feel this closeness of God. Sometimes the Lord gives them such experiences of His presence, I am convinced, unknown to us - relatively prosperous people, in their depth.

I once asked one repentant lifer if he could say about himself that even being in such a terrible situation, he sometimes feels happy? Indeed, in theory, a person with God can be happy everywhere, even in hard labor. To this he responded a little, thinking that he really sometimes experiences such experiences of happiness that he even forgets where he is. Then I immediately remembered the words of the Apostle Peter: “Lord! It’s good for us to be here.”

When I communicate with some convicts - people of deep faith, I hear about all the difficulties and constant sorrows of their life imprisonment, and see how they relate to all their ordeals, I am surprised. I find myself thinking that they certainly provide me with an example of Christian patience, genuine humility and trust in God. I have never heard any grumbling, no condemnation of employees, no complaints about poor food, or paltry wages, despite daily work of 12 or more hours (in the garment industry). “All glory to God, father! What's there to complain about? We are sitting on everything ready. Just pray for us, please!”

I always remember my first trip to a life-sentence colony. This was the famous IK-18 - “Polar Owl”, in the village of Kharp, Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug. I was preparing myself in advance for a kind of descent into hell, into a place of great despair.

However, when I met the condemned believers, I was literally shocked - God had never been as close to me as he was there. And it’s not that they told me anything particularly spiritual. I did most of the talking. It was simply an experience of His presence. Probably, this grace is sometimes experienced by the condemned. I also remember that at our first meeting many of the convicts cried. Just emotions? No. This, of course, was a blessed joy.

All the convict believers really want to confess and receive communion. Unfortunately, they don’t often have this opportunity. The regime is special, the meeting with the priest is purely individual. Taking a convict out of his cell is a whole undertaking.

The first confession is especially exciting for them. Sometimes convicts prepare for it for more than one year. I don’t remember a single case when any of them repented for the first time calmly and without tears.

I remember one convict with a powerful build and traces of a criminal past on his face. He timidly asked me for confession, but he was so confused that for some time he could not say anything. The situation was unusual for him. Convicts may not speak openly to anyone for years or even decades. Relationships with cellmates are difficult, and the staff of the institution will not have a heart-to-heart talk. Not allowed. And so I began to help this convict express everything that was on his conscience. And he began to speak. Tears began to well up in his eyes. At first he swiped them away furtively. Then I stopped paying attention to them. When I covered his head with the stole and began to read the prayer of permission, he began to cry bitterly.

This case is far from the only one. I have seen this often. If the staff of the institution notice this, they ask in surprise: “Did he really cry?”

I understand that man is a moving creature. At the moment of communication with the priest, the condemned are the best they can be, because “Where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them.” The grace of God transforms them.

But these are temporary changes for now. Therefore, when employees or other convicts tell me: “He’s good in front of you. You should have seen him at another time. We already know that.” It doesn't bother me. The process of change in the human soul is very long. Not even years, but decades of correct spiritual life can lead to truly irreversible changes in the soul of a criminal. But they sit for decades...

Cancellation of punishment

At the same time, it is also possible to cancel the life sentence. This process is called parole. It may be appointed by the court if the prisoner meets the following conditions:

  • the perpetrator has already served at least 25 years of punishment;
  • he never committed disciplinary or other offenses during his stay in the colony;
  • the prisoner is recognized as a person who has undergone re-education and has completely reformed.

In addition, the term can be canceled due to illness, loss of legal capacity, reaching old age, or the expiration of the statute of limitations on the sentence.

Thus, parole is quite possible, but not all prisoners manage to live to see pardon in their right mind.

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