Not so remote place. One day in a women's colony through the eyes of a correspondent

“Kobly”: “men” in women’s prisons of the USSR

In women's prisons and camps, life and human relationships are completely different than in men's correctional institutions. In the cells of the pre-trial detention center, everything is run by the elders - prisoners appointed by the administration.

In the zones, active lesbians have the greatest influence. And it’s no secret that in women’s colonies it is representatives of non-traditional sexual orientation who most often start fights.

A woman who has taken on the role of a man is called a male in the zone. She formally plays the role of husband. As in the wild, in the camp for women the family remains in the foreground, so in the zones the prisoners mostly live in families, both figuratively and literally.

Active camp lesbians always take male names, cut their hair short, and try to speak in a deep voice. They even outwardly become similar to men: their gait changes, their facial features become coarser.

The male dog takes on the role of protector and breadwinner (for example, she must get or buy some food), and the duties of a housewife are performed by a passive lesbian, she cooks and sets the table. The latter in places of deprivation of liberty often get tattoos depicting either a mermaid in a crown, holding a violin and bow in her hands and splashing on the waves, or rescuing a girl drowning in a stormy sea. Such unions usually last throughout the entire period of imprisonment, and the separation of the couple is not encouraged. This connection is determined not only by sexual demands, but also by the desire, for example, to have moral protection. There is no courtship in such couples. Everything is restrained and dry. By the way, no one rapes anyone - everything happens by mutual consent.

Paradoxically, the most violent, bloody showdowns, sometimes with fatal results, occur precisely in the women’s colonies of the post-Soviet space and mainly because of the jealousy of cobles. If in men's prisons violence usually comes from guards, then in women's prisons violence more often comes from cellmates, with the tacit consent of the prison administration. Fights break out, as a rule, over trifles, and they can be much more severe than among men - nails, teeth and other attributes of female beauty come into play. Women, apparently, are so keen on sorting out relationships among themselves that they find themselves completely ununited in the face of a common misfortune.

Many experts believe that the origins of camp unions lie in colonies for juvenile delinquents, where girls also often create husband-wife couples.


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Not so remote place. One day in a women's colony through the eyes of a correspondent

When we voiced to the head of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for the Altai Territory, Usachev, the idea of ​​telling readers about one ordinary day for a convicted woman, Valery Nikolaevich nodded approvingly, but suggested a slightly different option: “One day with a prison employee. You will see, hear and understand more.” That's what they agreed on. At eight in the morning, the deputy head of IK-11, Elena Zvereva, was waiting for us at the entrance to the colony. Zampolit, as she is called in the old fashioned way. I've already seen it somewhere. But where?

Hair Mask

We leave passports and cell phones at the checkpoint. We assure you that we do not carry SIM cards or other prohibited items with us. We greet a passing dog handler and his dog. The shepherd dog habitually sniffs and looks at the newcomers with curiosity. It’s written in my smart eyes: I’ll let you through in this direction without any problems, and there, whatever the owner says.

Elena Lvovna has been in the system of the Federal Penitentiary Service since 2000. Two higher educations - historical and legal. She worked with juvenile convicts, men and women from a colony settlement. Believes that women are the most difficult.

Elena Zvereva, deputy head of IK-11:

I tell them now: “First there were your children. I wrote letters to you together with them. Now you have come." Women are more aggressive and emotional than men. The basis of our special contingent are those who are over forty years old. You won't see many young faces here. These women spent a significant part of their lives in “places not so remote” - few people expect them to be released. Only a few people come to visit convicts. In men's colonies, long-term visiting rooms are constantly occupied, and there is a long queue. Here they are empty.

Today, Major of the Internal Service Zvereva is the person responsible for the institution among the management personnel. We are going to the morning briefing, which she must conduct with the duty squad taking over duty. Instruction as instruction. Observe the law when performing service... Address prisoners only as “you”. Comply with the rules for serving in enclosed spaces and internal regulations.

- Let me remind you that today we have journalists working with us. We must take care of their safety: so that our guests return home safe and healthy. Are there any patients? Can everyone serve?

Someone sniffles with a cold, but everyone can do it. Elena Lvovna goes to check the work of the punishment cell, where not only penal prisoners are kept in isolation. In the region, suspected and accused women are kept in pre-trial detention center-1 and pre-trial detention center-2. Those who have had a trial but whose sentence has not yet entered into legal force are brought to the Novoaltaysk colony in premises functioning as a pre-trial detention center (PFRSI). On the one hand, places in pre-trial detention centers are being vacated, on the other hand, convicts are being psychologically prepared for transfer from the pre-trial detention center to a colony. There is also a PKT - a chamber-type room. Its occupant is being searched in front of us. “Take off your sock.” - “Ha, maybe you should also take off your pants?” - the voice is low, smoky. They say about such people: peasants. She was sentenced to three months in the PKT for violent behavior. There are six people in the cells of the PFRSI, the public is calmer, although they also have their own “thorn”: “Are there any complaints?” - "Certainly! Don't you see? Let's lose weight! You can't make a hair mask! What kind of trouble have they staged here? The calm inspector from the security department continues to tap the frames of the beds and other simple furnishings of the cells with a large wooden hammer. His partner smiles faintly at the corners of her mouth. Here we saw and heard enough of all sorts of “concerts”. “Girls! - says the one who suffers without a hair mask. - Who searched you? Woman? And me - man! I got such a buzz!” He's lying, of course. We can testify with a photojournalist.

“Working here, you begin to be more lenient towards human weaknesses and shortcomings,” notes the political officer.

Sit for my husband

In Zvereva’s office we meet with her closest assistants. Young, pretty, serious.

“We have a small but very friendly team,” says Zvereva. “We hold on to each other, we help.” Otherwise, it is simply impossible to cope with the endless intrigues of the convicts.

Tatyana Pavlovna Mereshchenko and Alexandra Vyacheslavovna Ishkova are team leaders. Graduates of the Barnaul Law Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia. Svetlana Vladimirovna Markelova is a specialist in the labor and living conditions of convicts. Prepares for release, even to the point of purchasing tickets home, establishes connections with relatives, employment centers and social services at the place of residence. All smart, beautiful, all married. It is customary for us to address people by first name and patronymic, no “Tan” or “Svet”. Convicts are also supposed to be addressed as “you.”

I ask my new acquaintances what are the reasons for the increase in female crime.

— Previously, women were primarily involved in household chores and raising children, but now they have equal rights and opportunities with men. You have to be strong and aggressive in attempts at self-realization and self-affirmation. To some extent, they go against their original nature. And if it doesn’t work out, they go crazy. In our colony, many are imprisoned for murder or, like most gypsies, for drug distribution. It is quite possible that they are sitting instead of their husbands or sons. They take the blame upon themselves. I remember an elderly gypsy woman admitted when she was released: “Well, I sat for my son.” The trouble is that while she was in prison, her son was still imprisoned - for another crime. In our country, women are often forced to be equal to or stronger than men. However, getting on the same level as men, they forget that drugs and alcohol have a more detrimental effect on their lives. A man can still, if he really wants, give up these habits. A woman - no, for her these are incurable diseases. It’s a one-way road,” one feels that Tatyana Pavlovna has been thinking about this topic for a long time.

“Another reason is unemployment, especially in rural areas,” adds Alexandra Vyacheslavovna. — Husbands drink and women try to keep up with them. And in order to feed the family, to buy some clothes for the children, they resort to theft. When you ask: “Why?”, they answer: “There was no other way out.”

“This is an ambiguous moment,” Svetlana Vladimirovna shrugs. — In employment centers they say on the contrary: there are many jobs, we are waiting for your convicts. But our people rarely go there. They go to the social security authorities, collect certificates and receive financial assistance. The trouble is that when they are released, they don’t want to work. Cases of successful employment of former convicts and their successful social adaptation are, unfortunately, rare. Last year in Rubtsovsk, out of a thousand people who were released, 40 people came to the employment center, of which only eight took up the offered work. What are the others doing? At best, they work for entrepreneurs “under the table.”

What happens? Previously, there was a slogan: “Catch up and overtake America.” Now: “Catch up and overtake the men”? Or at least keep up with the drinking... One of the convicts stabbed to death her roommate, who poured a little less into her glass than for himself. Whether the eye failed, greed - what difference does it make now? A common story from criminal cases of convicts: they were drinking with their husband (cohabitant, acquaintance)... the man offended him... she went to the kitchen, took a knife... the offender fell asleep or was no longer aware of anything... struck (blows). There is a convict in the colony, a former nurse. Behind her back they call her the Cleaner - she sent four of her roommates to the next world. You’ll meet her on the street and won’t think anything bad: neat, sedate, pleasant in appearance. After serving her sentence for the third murder, she took with her a cat, which she fed in the colony. The cat returned a few days later. Soon the hostess returned. Happy fourth term.

— Our special contingent does not like to engage in needlework, embroidery, knitting and other purely feminine activities. We got used to living in freedom, doing nothing. And we didn’t receive the appropriate upbringing in childhood. Only two people out of 247 love and know how to draw, one of them still does ceramics. But you are always welcome to sing or dance, especially on Colony Day. Let there be no vodka, but everyone can go for a walk! As Yegor Prokudin said in the film “Kalina Krasnaya”: “The soul needs a holiday, a holiday!” The grandmother is standing there, with almost no teeth left: “I want to sing “Chervona Ruta,” says the political officer.

Letter to Italy

Zvereva looks at her watch - it’s time to go to the planning meeting with the head of the colony. His subordinates speak with respect about Vladimir Suvolov: “A seasoned operative. Wise and calm."

The seasoned opera’s first day feels like it’s back from a short vacation, and his subordinates burden him with problems... They don’t want to take the pregnant Bortnikova to Chelyabinsk and Mariinsk, where the colonies specialize in delivering babies to convicts. There are no places, everything is crowded. Another woman was diagnosed with a bad tumor. Regarding ARVI, which is rampant in the region, the situation is calm, convicts are given a proven preventive remedy - onions... Another problem with government procurement - we need new sewing machines for the workshop, but this is easy to say, and there is Federal Law-44... It's time to deal with those who are messing around in production, does not meet production standards.

Vladimir Suvolov, head of IK-11:

Here you go, and then they wonder why their salaries are low...

Red tape with the write-off of a worn-out tractor, impenetrable bureaucracy... In the first quarter, the expected excess consumption of electricity and water. We need to find ways to save... Suvolov looks like the director of an enterprise - only in a jacket. But unlike many bosses, he looks at journalists favorably: “If you have any questions, come in, I’m here until late.”

— Why do convicts try to get pregnant? — Elena Lvovna explains after the planning meeting. — To receive leniency and be released under Article 82. A child is an ironclad pretext for release. The one who needs to be sent to a special colony for childbirth already has two children: a boy is ten years old, a girl is less than two years old. The mother has a dozen criminal records - she specialized in stealing bags and things from Barnaul stores. We have a convicted Kuzkina. She married a man who had once abandoned his child with his mother. The mother he divorced was imprisoned. The child was raised in an orphanage until he was seven years old. Now the man, who was released not so long ago, is inflamed with fatherly feelings and intends to take the child from the orphanage. And Kuzkina is not far behind us: help us adopt this child. I would like to believe that this is a need to experience maternal love. But another, non-romantic option is possible: the term is long, nine years, and the presence of a child will help to be released under Section 82 - to care for a minor.

Children are generally the most favorite topic among convicts. They are missed and speculated upon. For their sake they are trying to start a new life. Natalya, convicted of drug possession, lived in the same high-rise building in Barnaul with my friends.

“I’ve already served five years.” My daughters are going to school soon. I don’t want to deal with drugs anymore - that’s a million percent! Drugs are evil. I was scared to see in the colony what kind of drug addicts end up here, what the “crocodiles” do to them in a short time. Sometimes you think: I’ll be walking down the street and a drug addict with an ax will attack you! Most of all I missed my mother and child. Only thoughts about them. I want to teach my daughter to skate. I'll go to the park with her. Waiting for me very much. (With a nervous laugh.) Like some kind of hero. Grandma doesn’t say where I am,” Natalya is fiddling with Makarenko’s “Pedagogical Poem” in her hands.

69-year-old Lyudmila Khan last saw her daughters 35 years ago (Irina and Tatyana were then 4 and 5 years old). The children remained in the city of Chirchik, then still in the Uzbek SSR. And Lyudmila Viktorovna’s life went in a vicious circle: theft, theft, robbery - courts - barbed wire. True, his last conviction was eight years for the murder of his roommate. Khan says the murder was “pinned on her.” Released in 2015, but nowhere to go. Where the daughters were, what happened to them, the mother did not know all these 35 years. The colony staff wrote a request to Uzbekistan. The answer came: in 1999, Tatyana Vyacheslavovna Khan married an Italian who worked in construction, accepted Italian citizenship and left her homeland. Not a word about the second daughter.

“We helped Baba Khan draft a letter, which she sent to the Italian Embassy asking for help in finding her daughter,” says Elena Zvereva. - Maybe Tatyana would like to meet. Or at least answer the letter. Even though many years have passed, this is still a mother who has been found.

Baba Khan (nee Zyryanova) is in the first detachment. Walks using a cane. The dark face is cut with wrinkles, the nose is large, the gaze is intent. A colorful grandmother, and her surname is telling - there is something khan-like about her.

— You work for a big newspaper. Help me find my daughter. I want to receive good news from her. It's like my last wish. I grew up an orphan and spent my entire life in government houses. But I am a free person and clean before God.

Evening fun

Baba Khan’s health is not good, and it’s not just because of her age. It is generally difficult to find healthy people in the colonies. The chief medical officer of the colony, Evgeny Aleksandrovich Galkin, has been working in the correctional system for 21 years. Previously he treated young children, now he treats women.

- A very difficult contingent. Neglected medically, with many chronic diseases. In the wild, none of the women practically took care of their health. We have many who used drugs. Thirty-seven convicts are HIV-infected, about 90 have hepatitis B and C. There are many gynecological diseases, hypertension is common. There are almost 700 diseases for 247 people.

The medical director shows his possessions - the offices of a therapist, a psychotherapist, a gynecologist, a dentist, and a ward. Freshly renovated, clean, tidy and obligatory bars. In a village with a population of 250 people you won’t even find a first aid station, but here there is a whole medical unit. The dental equipment will be the envy of other regional hospitals. You can treat your teeth and install dentures.

Most convicts have problems with their teeth, especially former drug addicts. But in women's state houses there is no self-mutilation, swallowing of various spoons, nails, pieces of barbed wire. This is all the prerogative of crazy men.

Evgeniy Galkin considers patience and endurance to be the most important thing in his work. Almost every evening, closer to lights out, which according to the schedule begins at 10 p.m., convicts, especially the elderly, begin to experience “exacerbations”: blood pressure, headaches, heart attacks... The medical staff are already at home, so they have to call an ambulance from the Novoaltai City Hospital. Civilian doctors arrive within five to seven minutes and the matter ends with the distribution of tablets. Essentially a false alarm. For convicts, the arrival of an ambulance is a kind of entertainment, a game on the nerves of the colony staff. And they have no choice - if something happens, they will be dragged to the prosecutor's office. It’s good that in the city hospital they “come to their senses” and don’t grumble.

Let's get out into the fresh air. The sky is blue, the sun is shining with might and main. Spring! Two convicts are being led past to the checkpoint. One has completed her second term, the other, thirty-eight years old, has completed her seventh. A few more minutes and they will be free. But the faces are gloomy. They turn away from the camera lens.

“Women often leave the colony and cry. Nowhere to go. Many are not needed at all. It happens that our requests from the internal affairs bodies receive answers: “The family does not want the convicted person to return to the house,” says the political officer.

Galkin looks for a long time towards the checkpoint.

— When I’m free, I often cross paths with my former charges, somewhere on the street or in shops. I’m interested in how they live, where they live. They ask not about how to treat their illnesses, not about prescriptions, but how things are in the colony.

Love and separation

Elena Lvovna is leaving us for a while. The person in charge of the institution is obliged to go “along the perimeter” - check the security department’s squadron service. Civilians are not allowed on towers. It's lunch time. In the canteen, prisoners are fed borscht, pasta with meat and jelly. And we are drinking tea with sweets in the political officer’s office. It's time to talk with her assistants about eternal topics - love and family.

“I’ve only been working in the colony for a year and a half, but I noticed that during this time my relationship with my husband has become even stronger. Psychologically, it is very difficult in a colony. I’m so tired that when I come home, I just want warmth, peace and romance. There is no strength left for any quarrels and clarification of relationships. On weekends we go with my husband and child to a quiet place. My husband is also in the FSIN system, and at home we basically don’t talk about service,” admits Svetlana Markelova.

Although we wear shoulder straps, we don’t give orders at home,” Alexandra Ishkova smiles shyly. “You are constantly under tension here.” You can expect anything from our convicts. Don't forget - many of them are murderers and drug addicts. They watch your every step, word, gesture. You have to constantly control yourself. Any mistake is fraught with all sorts of consequences. After such work, I want to quickly do my homework, be myself and just relax.

Elena Lvovna returns. He turns the topic towards the convicted.

— Men do not wait for women who find themselves in prison. They quickly divorce and find others. And a man is always welcome. It happens that she is not alone. In our colony, in three years there were only three marriages. First: the wife will be released in April and will go home to Rubtsovsk, but the husband is not there - he has already ended up in a maximum security colony for drug distribution. I ask: “Will you wait?” - “Nooo, why do I need it?” Second couple: she is in prison, he has served time, the future is in the fog. The third marriage seems to be strong. A gypsy husband from Novoaltaisk often comes to visit his wife on weekends... She is noticeably younger than him, adds Zvereva.

We go to the workshop where they sew shirts for police officers. We find one of those three married, a slender, middle-aged woman.

— I’ll be released in 15 days. What will I do? (looking at Zvereva.) First, check in everywhere so as not to catch anyone’s eye. I'll never come back here again. I am grateful to God that I felt and understood everything here, even in my old age. Why didn’t He imprison me earlier when I was younger? But I still have a long way to go. With my tongue and head I will not be lost, I will decide on my future life. I'll just correct my appearance. I became a pioneer in this colony - I got married. Should I tell you about my husband? No no no!!! Let history remain silent. Waiting for me now. Where would he go?!

The discoverer laughs out loud. Now it’s clear that the newly minted wife wants to correct it. Well, it's a matter of everyday life. And the husband, who is no longer needed, is, of course, waiting. What else should he do in a maximum security colony? Waiting for the deadline to expire. Counts days, months, years.

At the exit from the workshop I notice the mischievous look of a young, pretty seamstress. I wink mechanically. On the street, Elena Lvovna asks: “Why did the convict blush when we passed by?” I immediately inject myself. "What have you done? Now she won’t sleep at night, she’ll dream up God knows what!” — either jokingly or seriously, the political officer scolds. Now I'm blushing.

Dreams of parole

“By law, convicts are required to work,” Elena Lvovna tactfully moves on to another topic. — Here they receive secondary specialized education and work in the clothing industry. In freedom, few people will work in this specialty. But they exist, and we focus primarily on such people. Nadezhda Baranova, a young woman from Rubtsovsk, worked here very conscientiously. Her mother was ill, her brother died. The son could have been sent to an orphanage. Galina was very worried. We helped her complete all the documents and be released under Article 82. Recently I sent a letter to my friend Kasatkina from the third detachment - she has been working in the studio for the second year. The letter contains an advertising booklet - Nadezhda's son, a handsome boy, is posing in various suits that are sewn in the studio. We were all happy for her.

We are hurrying to the meeting of the council of teachers of the second detachment, which is held every first Tuesday of the month. The council includes the head of the colony, the political officer, the head of the security department, a psychologist and a social worker. Today the petitions of three convicts for parole are to be considered. Parole is one of the most important positions, the cornerstones of the social elevator system practiced in recent years by the penitentiary service.

— At least once a month, a commission, which includes representatives of the colony administration and all its services, reviews and evaluates the behavior of each prisoner. How does a convict relate to work, study, psychocorrectional work with a psychologist, compliance with internal regulations and participation in cultural events, Elena Zvereva explains to me. “After this, the question of the future is decided: transfer to light maintenance or leave under normal conditions. Or maybe transfer him to strict conditions of detention. A social elevator is a chance for a convict to at least somehow change his life for the better behind barbed wire that seems endless, to feel that time has not stopped. At a minimum, the convict is made to understand: they have not forgotten about him, his life is of interest to other people, someone needs him. Although in our colony there are few people who are released on parole by a court decision. After all, repeat offenders are kept here, some with 10-12 convictions. Some were released on parole five or six times, and what’s the point - they committed crimes again.

The first to appear before the clear eyes of the commission is Svetlana Safina, sentenced to nine years for murder.

“There were no penalties, she received rewards in the form of gratitude, she was employed as an auxiliary worker, and she treats her work conscientiously. Maintains socially beneficial connections with mother and 13-year-old daughter through long visits and phone calls. In case of parole, she intends to live with her mother and daughter at her previous place of residence. “He wants to get a job as a salesman in a store,” the head of the squad, Ishkova, reports.

What follows is a dialogue between the head of the colony and Safina. “Have you ever been on parole before?” - "Once". - “Will the second time be enough?” - "Enough. Second and last." - “Won’t you grab the knife again?” - "No, I will not". - “Keep in mind that your article is serious. And I tell everyone: if you end up here again, you won’t go on parole a second time. Once you have not lived up to the trust by breaking the law again, that’s enough, bear the full punishment.”

The commission supported Safina's petition. They also supported the petition of Anastasia Moseeva. This is her third term. The first time I was given a suspended sentence, the second time I was given a real sentence, I didn’t finish my sentence and was released on parole. This time they gave me four years, release in 2015. At home, in Tomsk, a grandmother and son are waiting, who is being raised by her common-law husband. Moseyeva's mother died. My husband had a criminal record.

- You are a young woman. Your hands are in place, they worked well, you can do European-quality repairs, there is a great demand for construction workers everywhere. Be careful not to be dragged into your old life. Don’t come back here—prison doesn’t do anything good,” Suvolov instructs.

The last to enter is a thin, gray-haired woman with the large hands of a working man.

“The convicted Baturina has been serving her sentence in our institution since 2011,” says Alexandra Ishkova. - There are no penalties. Encouragement in the form of four thanks. Health problems - thyroid gland. But there is no disability. Maintains socially beneficial connections with his son and daughter through telephone calls and letters. In case of parole, she intends to return home to Omsk. Previously, she was twice brought to criminal punishment under Art. 158 (theft). The first sentence was suspended. She served her second term in full. Third conviction - art. 105 part 1 (murder). Going on parole for the first time.

Baturina’s daughter is raising small children, does not work, and her son is serving a sentence. What exactly, the mother does not want to say. Baturina will turn 55 in December. I have accumulated work experience for retirement - I worked at a factory as a turner for 21 years. I received an apartment from the factory. If released on parole, it will happen in May. You will have to do something for six months. The Omsk employment service promised to provide employment according to available vacancies as standard. At best, the native plant will hire you to work as a cleaner - the turner’s skills are lost, and she’s no longer the same age. The Commission supports the petition. But Svetlana Markelova expresses a dissenting opinion:

“We’ll get a pension, and then let him go free.” She can't do it herself. The trouble is that these people do not want and are not used to going to institutions, standing in lines, filling out paperwork. Here we helped one gypsy get a passport for the first time - at the age of 45. How did you live without a passport? She honestly said: “Why do I need a passport?”

Of course, with these “elevators” there is a lot of paperwork. A bunch of certificates are needed - starting with the description of the head of the detachment and ending with what books the convict took from the library, to whom she sends letters, whether she has any outstanding debts, whether she refused medical care and necessary medical examinations. Immediately after the introduction of the system, the personal files of the convicts swelled to incredible proportions. Now, according to Zvereva, it has become simpler, and a system of social elevators, no matter how much it is criticized, is needed.

Our king's people

There is a school in the colony. Previously, young children studied there. Now 30 people sit at school desks, half of them in accordance with the law on compulsory secondary education, which a person must receive before the age of 30. In the fourth grade there are young, funny gypsies. Russian is the most difficult language for them. The remaining 15 people learn the wisdom of school at their own request.

The school building houses a prayer room and a library. In IK-11 the stone has been laid for the future church, but construction requires considerable funds and labor. In the men's colonies there are at least masons and carpenters... Priest Vyacheslav Dankin, who until recently looked after the correctional institutions of the region, helped open the prayer room. The convicts loved to have soul-saving conversations with him.

“The colony is visited by representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church, evangelical Christians, and Baptists,” Zvereva lists. — Most of all, of course, the Russian Orthodox Church helps. Not only spiritually, but also materially. Parcels often arrive from the church, and parishioners complete them. Even if it’s a little bag of candy, it’s still nice, because in the colony itself, as you understand, there is no provision for distributing candy. The peculiarity of our special contingent is that the convicts are accustomed to asking, although they are fully provided with shoes, clothing, and food. But this is all official stuff. And here - socks, candy or a towel from outside...

In the prayer room, two women, an elderly one and a very young one, froze at the icons. Everyone has their own relationship with God.

“I’m not one of those people who call themselves a believer behind bars, but when they’re free they forget about God.” He is in my soul. The main thing here is to preserve the person within you. For me, the most important concepts now are love and freedom. And money spoils people,” says 25-year-old Nastya Kuznetsova from Barnaul.

There is no one in the library except the head - an elderly convict with a “Lyuba” tattoo on her fingers. By the way, such tattoos among convicts have gone out of fashion. Lyubov Naydenova, showing the contents of the bookshelves, carefully hides her marked brush. “People of Our Tsar” by Lyudmila Ulitskaya are adjacent to “Strong in Spirit Dm. Medvedev, Goethe - with “Gone with the Wind”, Remarque - with “The Garden of Desires” by Maria Gorodova, and Saltykov-Shchedrin with “Husbands and Lovers” by R. Harris. Of course, “Resurrection” by Leo Tolstoy.

What do they like to read here? Yes, the same as in the wild. Younger people prefer romance novels and detective stories. Those who are older - historical literature, classics. Science fiction and various types of fantasy are not in honor. A separate bookcase is reserved for spiritual literature. The Bible and its interpretations, including academic ones, books about the lives of saints and... more than ten new, eye-catching books by Yu. Mikhailov “It’s time to understand the Koran.” Are they reading? No, the librarian assures us, we do not have Muslim women. But, it seems to me, the call to study the Koran applies not only to those who already profess Islam.

Feelings of regret

I see Shukshin’s volume and it finally dawns on me where I saw Elena Zvereva before. Last fall, the X All-Russian Song Festival of Convicts “Kalina Krasnaya” took place in Barnaul. The gala concert took place on the stage of the Altai Youth Theater. Elena Lvovna helped the organizers a lot behind the scenes during the dress rehearsal and the concert itself, where her knowledge of the psychology of convicts was especially useful. Some of the artists had to be reassured, some had to be encouraged, some just had to shake hands before going on stage. When journalists were allowed to talk to the artists after the gala concert, I involuntarily drew attention to a beautiful woman standing nearby with major's shoulder straps. The facial features are soft, and the gaze is firm and confident.

— I go to work because I like it. If it were different, I would have quit, no matter what the salary was. What do I feel towards those convicted? No, not pity. After all, we are dealing with repeat offenders. But there is regret about the broken destinies. I have not offended any of the convicts in all these years. She didn't call anyone a fool or a fool. Although sometimes I really wanted to. Sometimes I hear bad, unpleasant words from them about myself. But I'm not offended. These are women, they constantly weave intrigues. Especially gypsies. I tell the employees: “Treat convicts as forced people. Be more lenient." It’s just that each of us needs to do what we are obliged to do according to our responsibilities. Our job is to carry out the punishment determined by the court. It’s funny to talk about the re-education of 40-60 year old people who have been in prison more than once. The convicted person must serve her sentence and go free - if not healthy (this is not a sanatorium or resort, after all), then at least with health that has not deteriorated. This is probably an unexpected comparison, but in some ways our work is similar to the work of a teacher in a kindergarten (I had such an experience in my youth). What is most important to him? In the evening, return their small children to the parents safe and sound.

It seems that responsibility is one of the most important traits in the character of our political officer. Svetlana Markelova recalls how she and Elena Lvovna took the former convict, pensioner Marchenko, to Rubtsovsk in her own car to a special psychoneurological dispensary. In fact, the Novo-Altai social protection authorities could have done this, but they were probably afraid - the grandmother was twice convicted of murder.

“We spent a very long time trying to get Marchenko registered there. The trip turned out to be calm, the grandmother did not fuss. We couldn't just let her out of the colony, close the door and wash our hands of it. What if she did something? - Zvereva argues.

The famous Russian rule says: “Don’t believe, don’t be afraid, don’t ask.” It is believed that it was born in places of imprisonment.

“It’s very difficult for me to always ask for myself,” admits the political officer. — It’s another thing to ask for someone. Do not believe? Well, yes, there is such a professional deformation, in this work we become more distrustful. Don't be afraid... This message for a colony or prison is not very correct. Employees' sense of danger must not be dulled. During briefings, we constantly remind employees about safety measures. Women convicts are often unpredictable. They can be provoked even by a casual glance or a carelessly thrown word. And many of them have nothing to lose. Ideally, people serving criminal sentences should be mentally healthy. In fact, we have enough convicts with various mental disorders; some of them are treated in the corresponding closed-type medical institutions. All employees wear special keychains with a panic button. Security officers carry batons, pepper spray and handcuffs.

There were no escapes here. For women's colonies, escaping is too extreme an act, only in television series this is possible. Zverev calls cinematic consumer goods about prisons and colonies like spreading cranberries: they have nothing in common with real life.

The working day ends in the sewing workshop. For dinner in the colony there is boiled fish, mashed potatoes and tea with bread. Just like in the army. Associations with her arose constantly. Take the evening formation for example. In the army, we also smoked outside the barracks on the eve of the evening roll call. And the “grandfathers of the Soviet Army” also walked slowly in the last rows, not really keeping the order. Here, the last in the column are grandmothers with canes and crutches.

Elena Lvovna accompanies us through the checkpoint gates.

- Come in the summer - for Colony Day. All the convicts are waiting for him. We are preparing carefully. Relatives are invited. The convicts sew colorful costumes, learn songs and dance numbers, and write a script. Cakes and other baked goods are baked. But the convicts don’t like New Year. Lights up at 10 pm anyway - what kind of New Year is that? Yes, this holiday, you understand, is a family holiday.

It takes us about ten minutes to get to Barnaul, especially if you cross the Old Bridge. The colony is indeed a not so remote place.

"Your useless mother"

The next day I go to Odnoklassniki and type “Tatyana Khan Italy”. There is one! Tatyana Han, Perugia. I am writing in the “Messages” section about a woman who, apparently, is her mother. Please respond if you wish.

“My dear little blood, daughter Tatyana! Here your mother, offended by fate, writes to you. Forgive me for all my sins before God and before you. I haven’t seen you for so many years, although I haven’t forgotten about you. When you were about five years old, I was separated from you. They were exiled to Siberia without the right to correspondence or travel home. But I didn’t forget about you, and fate threw me around the zones. And until the last I am here. And this zone will be the last. Daughter, I will be released on October 15, 1930, and I would really like to know what you will answer me. At least by letter. And I really hope for your mercy. Forgive me, Tanya. I beg you. I only have nothing left to live. Give me news about yourself. Your worthless mother. I'm really looking forward to it."

The third week has begun. Still no answer. Perhaps Tatyana Han logs into Odnoklassniki on very big holidays. Perhaps he is still putting his thoughts and feelings in order after such unexpected news. Everything is possible.


According to data as of April 1, 2014, 674,900 people were kept in institutions of the Russian penal system, of which 55,300 were women. There are 13 children's homes in women's colonies, where 665 children live. There are 1,359 women in prison in the Altai Territory.

*The names and surnames of some convicts have been changed.

The author thanks the head of the press service of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia for the Altai Territory, Natalya Shulepina, for her assistance in training.

Torture is contagious How violence in prisons affects each of us

21.10.2021 06:00

According to him, the system works like this: inside the institution there is a Sonderkommando of about 10 people who, at the command of operatives, can beat, rape, and torture prisoners. As Osechkin says, more than 200 people went through these tortures, but the abuse of only 35-40 of them was recorded on video. “From the M department of the FSB or the FSIN they called OTB-1, gave a task, the head of the security department gave a command to the person responsible for the video recorders. He charged them and handed them over to the employees with an empty memory card, and they handed them over to the activists. The prisoner was brought in and four or five convicts attacked him, beat him, tied him up in a helpless state, lifting his legs and exposing his anus, then raped him with a stick or for real, urinated on his face. This process of transferring this person to the lowered caste, so that he becomes a nobody, was recorded on video,” says the founder of Among the activists he names Sergei Ananyev, Radik Gimadeev, Vitaly Yanin, Peter and Alexander Krainov, Viktor Sheyanov.

After the rape, the video recorder was brought back to headquarters, the information was copied from it and put on a flash drive to be taken to the customer. According to Osechkin, there were cases of technical failure, the video was not received or was not saved - in such situations the torture was repeated, says a source. Vladimir Osechkin points out that until some point the informant participated in preparing replies to his requests, but then “decided to stop this hell” and began copying information, hiding files in a computer system or recording on a separate medium. Upon his release, he downloaded the rest of the archive, since he still had access to the internal system of the Federal Penitentiary Service.

“And this is not only OTB-1 in Saratov, there is evidence from Irkutsk - pre-trial detention center-1, pre-trial detention center-6. There is evidence that this practice is systemic,” says Osechkin. Torture and rape continued at least until June 2022, he clarifies, that is, until a criminal case was initiated in which there were victims, but no suspects.

The project informant is currently in relative safety, but he is being hunted and is awaiting political asylum. According to Osechkin, he has not yet seen the most terrible materials and does not yet know what can be captured on these videos.


Miracles of tolerance: Transgender Nazar was put in a women's pre-trial detention center, and he got married

The former Anastasia was afraid to go to a men's prison, and the authorities came into a situation

The focus of Western tolerance has been shifting in recent years. Ordinary gays are no longer fashionable - they are too “normal” with their claims to same-sex marriage. Now, as a symbol of tolerance, serve something quirky - transgender people. That is, people who themselves cannot understand either their mental or their sexual identity, but demand from society exceptions, violations of laws adopted taking into account the objective division of the sexes, etc.

Today you won’t find anything. I already said once that they invented five or six genders. Transformers... trans... I don’t even understand what this is all about. Well, God bless everyone... The problem is that this part of society quite aggressively imposes its point of view on the overwhelming majority. We must respect, but cannot impose,

– Vladimir Putin commented to the press this summer about the new Western fad.

It would seem that everything is clear and the position of the Russian authorities is determined.

But common sense and a political decision, obviously, do not come first for the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service. The department, which, alas, has many problems related to the quality of detention of prisoners, and from somewhere comes information about beatings and torture, or, on the contrary, a photo of the bandit Tsepovyaz eating crabs, managed to get involved in the scandal with the first in the history of Russian correctional institutions " non-traditional wedding.

A bride in a white dress with a bouquet of flowers stands at the checkpoint of the pre-trial detention center in joyful anticipation, “Moskovsky Komsomolets” pours out like a nightingale, as if this is happening in the early 1990s, and we are talking about advertising prostitutes. ґ- Her fiance is worried on the other side of the barbed wire, trying on a luxurious blue suit with a bow tie in the cell. It would be an ordinary wedding behind bars, of which dozens take place every year in Moscow, if not for one thing. Everything happens in a women’s detention center, and the groom is “a man in a woman’s body.” In Moscow pre-trial detention center No. 6, in Pechatniki, one of the most unusual weddings in the entire history of the penal system took place. For the first time, the marriage of a transgender prisoner was registered.

In fact, what we have before us is, of course, a lie. There is no transgender wedding happening from a legal point of view. According to the documents, a citizen of Belarus, Nazar Gulevich, a man, and a woman, Elena, are getting married. Modern Russian legislation does not prohibit such a marriage, and who Nazar was according to the documents before should not be of interest to the registering authorities; an examination by doctors is not carried out before submitting an application to the registry office. Moreover, Gulevich was already married and divorced on the territory of the Russian Federation as a man. That is, the civil registry office had no grounds to legally deny a “Belarusian man with a passport” the right to marry.

Photo: Alexander Keltik/Globallookpress

One thing... The case took place in Moscow pre-trial detention center No. 6, which is intended for... women. And this is a serious question for the Federal Penitentiary Service - why is a man with a passport kept in a women’s pre-trial detention center, and even gets married there? Nazar Gulevich turned out to be Anastasia by origin. Moreover, strictly speaking, he is not even a man in the surgical sense of the word - the corresponding surgical intervention (we can also talk about the immorality of such interventions, but somehow later) was not completed. So, in essence, this is a woman with her breasts removed and documents replaced by the Belarusian authorities.

All the sex change stories happened in Anastasia’s life many years ago. Since then, she managed to serve in the Belarusian army, work in Moscow, and take part in the “Battle of Psychics,” where the sorcerers were asked to guess which of the participants had changed their gender. In general, a rich life, more suitable for a picaresque novel, which could not help but lead at some point to a pre-trial detention center, after Anastasia agreed to become a dummy director of a fraudulent company. According to her own account, which may or may not be believed, she was forced to sign documents for a fraudulent transaction. And then, when the police and investigation took over the case, “Nazar Gulevich”, who had lost his Belarusian passport, was, in fact, doomed to detention.

I was first taken to pre-trial detention center-3 “Presnya”, which is for men. I explained to the investigator who I was and that I might have problems. He promised to hand over everything to the management of the pre-trial detention center, but did nothing. Picture the picture. They were undressing me, and there were other prisoners standing around, men, listening to everything, watching... The doctor saved me. In shock, he looks at my chest and asks: “What are these scars?!” And all eyes were on me, silence fell around. I say: it was run over by a dump truck. Doctor: “Who are you lying to?” And he didn’t accept me into the pre-trial detention center, for which I thank him. The sixth pre-trial detention center, a women’s one, didn’t accept me either: after all, I have a man’s passport. At first I sat alone in the hospital of pre-trial detention center-1, “Matroski”... Then they transported me to pre-trial detention center-6. I don’t know who they consider me here: a woman, a man... I’ve been sitting alone for more than six months. At first the employees showed some interest and discussed it loudly, but then they got used to it,

– says the defendant himself in another tearful interview.

Photo: Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz /

Now the person listed as Nazar Gulevich according to documents is sitting in a women’s pre-trial detention center in a separate block. The FSIN employees decided to show humanity, and even more so, not to take risks, since something could happen to an unconventional prisoner, and they were responsible. However, for the sake of this humanity, they essentially violated the law. From the legal side, Gulevich’s gender is male; this was recently once again confirmed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus, which issued the prisoner a new passport. This means that such a prisoner has nothing to do in a women’s detention center. Since the FSIN employees, among other worries, have enough time to decide the fate of a woman-man, then, therefore, they are quite capable of organizing the same “separate room” in a men’s detention center.

And the isolation “wedding of transformers” became a completely absurd thing. Based on numerous interviews with the “groom,” it turns out that his acquaintance and life together with the bride began many years ago. There were no fundamental obstacles to marriage - there was already one marriage in Nazar’s biography. And what was the urgent need to organize a show with white dresses and bouquets in a pre-trial detention center is not at all clear from the publications.

And the further, the more. It seems that this is a provocative show that has nothing to do with legality or humanity. “Nazar” was already a TV star in the past, so there’s no shortage of adventurism in this case. Become a participant in another high-profile show for the press - “The first marriage of transgender people in a Russian pre-trial detention center”... why not? And now the help of “human rights activists”, tearful publications in the press, monologues about how “Joan of Arc was also condemned for wearing a man’s dress” (the Maid of Orleans is definitely not worth dragging into this)…

This raises one question. If the story of the accusation against “Nazar” is so transparent, then why don’t all the defenders and well-wishers chip in for a good lawyer? He will end up under house arrest, and then a small sentence is not far away. As any fraud investigator will tell you, no one will imprison fake directors of a company. However, the defendant has been kept for more than a year in the same women’s pre-trial detention center No. 6, and “Nazar” himself is talking about what he will do if he ends up in a colony. This can only mean one thing - the person under investigation is very much under-reporting to the press about the real circumstances of the case and the seriousness of the charges, adhering to the strategy of “Rafik is completely innocent” in front of journalists.

Photo: Stefan Kiefer/Globallookpress

Meanwhile, if Rafik really was so catastrophically innocent, then the efforts of all parties, caught in the ecstasy of humanity, could be aimed at mitigating the preventive measure and generally removing the “victim of the frame-up” from among those under investigation. But no one is doing anything like that - most likely because nothing can be done and “Nazar Gulevich” himself was much more than a figurehead in the fraudulent scheme, and for one reason or another does not give evidence that helps the investigation.

And now a completely different story is emerging, about how the notorious “transgenderness” turns out to be a way to soften the conditions of detention, secure privileges in the pre-trial detention center, deceive the public, and complicate the investigation. In short - social hacking, which most often turns out to be a significant part of cases of this kind.

The biggest question here, of course, is for the press and for all those who are using yet another sob story for the squeamish in order to move the notorious “Overton window.” They say that in Russia there is a terrible problem with transgender people, with their imprisonment, with real and imaginary dangers that arise for them... And it urgently needs to be solved by the efforts of the entire society and the Federal Penitentiary Service. Better yet, create some kind of special government program and earn the approval of the international liberal community.

But, in fact, it was the Federal Penitentiary Service that started all this “raspberry” in this case - systematically violating the law, keeping legally a man in a legally female detention center, referring to the “actual gender”, but at the same time allowing a completely inappropriate marriage of his prisoner as a man .

Photo: itakdalee /

This is exactly where it is - either take off the bow tie or put on panties.

Either we protect this person as a woman, as the Lord created her, from the consequences of her further madness - then let her sit in a women’s pre-trial detention center, regain the name Anastasia and enjoy those privileges of the weaker sex that are provided for by our laws and morals. But then - no marriage as a groom within the walls of a women's pre-trial detention center. Either we continue to follow the godless liberal casuistry, which allows and legally legalizes the so-called gender change. And then he called himself a man - answer for the consequences. I received a men’s passport from Belarus, if you get married using it, you’ll end up in a men’s detention center. And FSIN employees can show their humanity in a different way, for example, by selecting a cell in which there is no “url”, among which only very wild ideas and a tendency to violence are common.

The current circus, which was organized by the FSIN, is both illegal from the point of view of the PEC, and immoral from both church and secular morality. This is a terrible setup for the entire country, which has taken a completely clear position on moral issues in the eyes of the world community and it is for this position that it has acquired the well-deserved respect of conservative people around the world. And finally, this whole humanitarian attraction falls within the framework of a criminal case of fraud, in which the “tigers are clearly not telling something.”

In general, tired of accusations of excessive cruelty, our prison department decided to surprise the world with mercy and tolerance. But something seems to have gone wrong...

“They tolerate their husbands, then they kill them”: an interview with the head of the women’s colony

Oksana Korolkova spoke about working in a correctional colony, fun and extreme moments of service and relationships with convicts

People rarely think about the life of convicts in places of detention, and even less often the population is interested in the work of correctional officers. Little is known about their work, and some details emerge in parts thanks to crime reports. Even less can be learned about women's correctional colonies.

On the Day of the Worker of the Criminal Correctional System, a TOLK correspondent spoke with the first and so far only woman in the history of the Altai Territory - the head of a correctional colony, Oksana Korolkova, who talked about how she came into the profession, what difficulties she encountered, as well as her relationships with prisoners and much more.

“They tolerate their husbands, then they kill them”: an interview with the head of the women’s colony

– How long have you been leading the colony?

– If officially, then from May 2022, and unofficially – more, since I interned for a year. While the appointment procedures, all approvals and other issues were going on, I acted as the head of the colony.

– Tell us how you took this position, how you received the offer and what your reaction was. Did you think for a long time or did you immediately say “yes”?

– I was very worried.

- Why?

- Well, because the responsibility is very big. Firstly, the colony is new. I worked in a colony-settlement, as if everything was completely different. The team here is much larger: there were 37 certified people plus hired ones, and here there are 150 plus 37 civilians, so the feeling of fear was very great. I was very worried.

– How did you get used to it at first?

– The first year was very difficult. I’m still used to all the people and innovations. As for the general regime, I had to get used to everything. And now everything is fine, I’ve gotten used to it.

– How often do you experience stress? More often than a woman in a civilian profession?

– In our profession, not only managers - everyone is constantly under stress, because the amount of work is quite impressive and the responsibility for people is great. You need to be in a state of full readiness all the time.

Women's colony

Photo: Anna Menshikova

– Tell us how you came to the profession in the first place. What did you dream about as a child?

– As a child, I dreamed of working in the police. I liked everything connected with shoulder straps. But work in the authorities did not work out, and I took a slightly different path. A friend of mine already worked in the sixth colony, she saw potential in me and suggested that I try to come to the position of organ analyst, then still a junior inspector in the security department. I performed the duties of an organizational and analytical group, that is, I took minutes, meetings and much more. So gradually I found myself in my place, where I am now.

– Do you believe that prison can reform a person? It is a common belief that once people are there, they will never be able to return to society. I’m not talking about isolated cases now, I mean a massive trend.

– I’ll answer in a trivial way – it all depends on the person. Of course, the influence of life in prison does not pass without a trace and is reflected on a person’s personality, but many points need to be taken into account: what are the conditions of a person’s detention, how did he get there, under what circumstances, because, as a rule, the majority of convicts who accidentally committed crimes Due to the prevailing circumstances, something preceded this. This could be due to alcohol consumption, or for some it could be due to drug use. Most of these people are able to adapt to society after leaving here. Another category are those who lived inappropriately even in freedom; after their release, nothing changes. Well, if in general, then the bulk, of course, are corrected.

“They tolerate their husbands, then they kill them”: an interview with the head of the women’s colony

– What work is done with prisoners for their further socialization?

“Some come to us even without school education and here in the colony they receive it without fail. Those who previously did not have the opportunity to obtain a specialty can receive professional education as a seamstress, fireman, cook, or education at higher educational institutions remotely. After receiving a profession, convicts are employed in production areas of the colony. And they are released with education and even work experience. In addition, six months before the end of the sentence, classes are held with convicts as part of the “School for Preparing Convicts for Release.” Classes at the School have a very diverse topic: from studying the rights and responsibilities of those released, rules of behavior in public places, to studying the state of the labor market, one’s own professional preferences, and so on.

– Can they also find official employment with you in the colony?

– Yes, most of them are employed in boiler houses and sewing workshops. They receive a salary, which goes to a special account. From this salary there is a deduction for accommodation in the colony, food, if they owe someone at the request of the court, then part of it goes to pay off the debt. Those who earn money can transfer it to relatives from this account or, for example, make purchases in a store at the colony.

“They tolerate their husbands, then they kill them”: an interview with the head of the women’s colony

– Do you keep in touch with former prisoners?

“Those who strived to improve and become law-abiding people, after their release, constantly send us letters, congratulating us on all the holidays. We already have a collection of letters. They tell how they got a job and started a family. In general, they report to us how they are doing there.

– In your colony there are women who have been convicted for the first time. What crimes are the majority of people here for?

– The majority of them are imprisoned under articles “Murder”, “Causing grievous bodily harm” and under Article 228 – “Storage and distribution of drugs”. These three articles refer to 80% of our convicts.

– What are the murders and attempted murders connected with? What are the most common circumstances?

– This is jealousy, and some everyday reasons. For example, grandmothers live, endure insults and beatings from their husbands all their lives, and then one day they kill their spouses. Why did you live and endure for so many years without leaving your husband? For what? To then take it like this and end up in prison? I ask them these questions. And they answer that “well, now we understand it.” I feel very sorry for such convicts.

– What is the average age of your prisoners?

– On average, approximately 27 to 45 years old.

– In your memory, what is the worst crime a woman has committed?

– There are frightening statistics. We noted that over the past five years we have received many child killers. There are those who committed the murder of a newborn child, there are those who killed a child who was at a more conscious age. We have a grandmother sitting here who burned a child in the stove because he cried and prevented her and her friend from drinking alcohol. In the morning she woke up, took the remains out of the stove and threw them into the toilet on the street. The child's mother came after her shift, but the child was not there. Her grandmother told her that he was missing. You read the materials of their case, and it becomes creepy.

– The colony is not a place for jokes, but are there any stories that you remember with laughter?

- Yes, we have no time for laughter. But there are some rather non-standard situations. For example, we have a convicted woman - a grandmother. She is old and walks with a crutch. And he's in prison for murder. I look at her and I can’t understand how she’s so fragile, walks somehow, and killed her.

We had another convict, also elderly. Upon arrival, she asked us to call home and tell us that she had arrived. He calls his daughter and says: “Everything is fine, I like everything and the “service staff” are very good.” No one has ever called us that before!

However, there are many more serious issues associated with risk to life in our service. There was such a case. The employee made a remark to one of the convicts. She harbored a grudge. She waited for her next shift, before the morning inspection, heated the kettle, covered it so that the water did not get cold, and as soon as the inspector approached her, she poured boiling water on her. Luckily for our colleague, she managed to react and dodged. The boiling water only touched my neck. It didn't hit my face or eyes. The attacker had a little more than a year left to serve, but because of this incident, her sentence was increased.

“They tolerate their husbands, then they kill them”: an interview with the head of the women’s colony

– Do you have any wishes for colleagues who will read your interview?

– I congratulate them on their professional holiday. I wish them patience, health, family well-being and that the convicts try to make efforts for their further correction.

IK-6 is a general regime correctional colony for women sentenced to imprisonment for the first time. The institution is located in the village of Shipunovo. In June 2015, as part of the Concept for the development of the penal system of the Russian Federation until 2022, the model of the Center for the Correction of Convicts was introduced in IK-6. Convicted women are distributed among three centers. A set of measures is carried out with convicts aimed at their socialization and reducing the level of violations of the established procedure for serving their sentences.

Particularly Strict Regime – Women's Prison (doc. film)

A brutal fight breaks out in a matter of seconds and ends in bloodshed. Drug trafficking is the main business here. You shouldn't expect anything else from a maximum security prison. But these prisoners are not men - they are all women. And in order to survive here you need to navigate a world full of drugs and dangers. Welcome to the world of women behind bars at Valley State Prison in California.

Yesterday, Sunday, I spent the whole day reading terrible horror stories about women's prisons, and today, Monday, I woke up and went to the bathhouse. I must say that I love going to a public bathhouse, where there are many different naked women. Overall good. But when today I imagined that we would have to spend not an hour and a half together, but, for example, a year and a half, I felt uneasy. The similarity with prison methods of self-organization and establishment of hierarchy alarmed me. Women. Firstly, the bathhouse always has its own quotes. If you don’t have a very specific set of all sorts of accessories, you’re out of the question. If you offer to ventilate the steam room, they can easily say: “put on your cap first, and then teach us.”

If, on the contrary, you have too many bells and whistles, then they look at you with a grin. There is no “common fund” there, so all you can do for the common good is not to cower. It is interesting that physicality itself (thinness, fullness, body structure) does not matter. The naked body is present as if by default, as something obligatory for being there. Like a prison sentence. Secondly, “suits” in a women’s bathhouse, as in a prison, are assigned spontaneously and are very related to age. The most masculine and mature women (usually there are several of them) take upon themselves maintaining the desired temperature in the steam room. To those who are younger, they often point to the number of leaves with an unambiguous hint: “You should sweep them, since you’re sitting, they’re women after all.” Those few daredevils who jump into an icy pool (very cold) can instantly gain the right to control the temperature: “let her give in, she knows a lot, have you seen her splashing in icy water?” Thirdly, there is always confrontation between groups. Those who are currently monitoring the steam room, self-identified “thieves,” are objects of foul language from those who are waiting for the “steamers” to leave, and for the latter to finally be able to do everything in their own way, of course, better. And while they wait, they sit on bath benches (reminiscent of bunks) and, sometimes even very maliciously, whisper about all this. Fourthly, mutual assistance is situational. A woman who volunteers to wash your back (even sometimes a person you know before) can easily say nasty things about you or simply awkward details as soon as you cross the threshold of the steam room. You leave, and she remains in the forced conditions of a variety of conversations. Access to the body means nothing here. Fifthly, there are always unconditional “others”. For example, heavily tattooed young ladies. Or girls with piercings. For Russian bath attendants they are still a curiosity, and I have never seen anyone talk to them. The second type of “others” are visitors to VIP rooms, with whom regular bath attendants share a common steam room (they enter the same steam room through a different door). They are called “these” and are remembered very often. “Well, did these guys show up today?” They are most often not allowed to control the temperature, and they rarely go out. When you are in the locker room and the next woman leaves the bathhouse, she always says goodbye, says “thank you,” “enjoy your steam,” and smiles. She organizes hooded scarves for a very long time, as if this visit was unique for her and it is very difficult for her to leave this place. Today, for some reason, another woman said to me, “God bless you.” (By the way, sometimes women cross themselves before entering the steam room). Well, of course, all this is done as a joke, as if once you’re naked, you’re good for a hundred years. And you also belong because you are a woman. And also, because this is all for an hour and a half. But I can imagine how it all turns into hysterical petty cruelty, stupid and merciless. And how it doesn’t turn out that way for men. This is the story.


Recommended viewing:

Study: why women kill and who helps them

The sad story of the most successful conqueror of Everest

“It felt like I was just an incubator”: stories of women facing reproductive violence

What happens to transgender people in Russian prisons

Photo: EPA/Rungroj Yongrit

Determination of the place of detention

In 2016, Moscow police officers detained a transgender woman, Albina Matyunina, who was on the federal wanted list.
In 2011, Albina, who had not yet begun her transgender transition, was sentenced to a suspended sentence for shoplifting 1,810 rubles. Since then, she has undergone hormone therapy and undergone several plastic surgeries, but from the point of view of the law she remained a man. Albina was sent to a men's pre-trial detention center in Moscow, and then transferred to Rostov. In both detention centers she lived in solitary confinement. Lawyer Olga Badalyan feared that after the verdict her client might end up in a general cell in a men's colony and that in this case her safety would be at risk. This did not happen, the colony was avoided. Albina was imprisoned for less than a month, then she was released.

The story of Albina Matyunina is not the only one. There are sometimes reports in the media that FSIN employees are confused because they do not understand where to detain a transgender person. In Russia, sentences are passed “by passport.” Formally, in the justice system, transgender people do not exist, there are only men and women. There are also no legal acts regulating their distribution among places of forced detention, so a person with female gender characteristics may end up in a male colony, and vice versa. “The Federal Penitentiary Service simply has not gained experience in this area in order to generalize it in a legal act,” says Olga Podoplelova, a lawyer for Sitting Rus', “so many things are most likely decided locally, remain at the discretion of the administration and depend on its readiness take into account the special needs of transgender people.”

Loneliness in isolation

Citizen of Belarus Nazar Gulevich was born a woman. After coming of age, he began his transgender transition: he began taking hormones, changed his documents, had his mammary glands removed, and when he moved to Moscow, he began to think about genital surgery. He was unable to complete the transition due to allegations of fraud. According to investigators, Gulevich may be involved in the theft of the authorized capital of a real estate company. Gulevich denies any guilt. The court decided to send him to a pre-trial detention center. Nazar’s wife Oksana (name changed at the request of the hero. - Ed.) considered this unfair: “He is accused of embezzlement of capital, that is, in fact, a crime in the field of entrepreneurial activity, for which the Supreme Court did not recommend placing him in a pre-trial detention center at all.” "

Difficulties arose with the choice of place of detention. Gulevich was not accepted into the women's detention center, arguing that he was no longer a woman; in the men's detention center, because he was not yet a man. As a result, Gulevich was sent to the hospital at “Matrosskaya Tishina”, where prisoners of both sexes are kept. This became a temporary solution - Gulevich was healthy and could not stay there for a long time without a good reason. In addition, after three months of Nazar’s stay in Matrosskaya Tishina, other prisoners began to be hostile towards him. One of the guards mentioned Gulevich’s transgender status as he led him to the telephone. The men, who were in the prison corridor at that time and heard the words of the FSIN officer, began shouting threats to Nazar. A month later, he was transferred to women's pre-trial detention center number six, citing the fact that physiology must be taken into account first. Gulevich was placed in solitary confinement. There he spent almost two years.

Now Nazar leaves his cell only for visits or to make a call. He refuses to go for walks because he does not want to meet the pre-trial detention center staff again. Over the phone, Gulevich tells his wife that some employees of the institution do not always behave correctly towards him: out of spite they can break the folder for papers with which he usually goes to court, fail to bring a cart with food to his cell and go into his shower, to see how his body had changed after breast removal surgery. When Nazar ended up in a pre-trial detention center, he began making castles and towers from matches - according to his wife, this was the only activity that could make him happy. According to Oksana, the detention center staff threatened to deprive Gulevich of such an opportunity.

“By all means [FSIN employees] lead to conflict. I tolerate it. Now they are addressed purely in the feminine gender. It's a shame, of course. I have gone through such a long and painful path: school bullying, neighbors’ evil tongues, mother’s tears, silent reproaches. <…> I am oppressed because I am like this. Yes, I may be a fake, but I will never offend the weak,” Gulevich writes in a letter to journalist and member of the PSC (Public Monitoring Commission) Eva Merkacheva. (“Snob” quotes the letter with the permission of both parties. - Ed.


During quarantine in the pre-trial detention center, Gulevich stated that he wanted to commit suicide. After this, Nazar was sent to the psychiatric hospital of pre-trial detention center No. 2 for four days, and then returned back. According to Oksana, the staff of the institution treat him as a person “with an increased risk of suicide” and therefore are trying to hedge his bets. “They have reasons,” says Oksana, “Nazar really often talks about suicide, and even before going to the pre-trial detention center, he twice tried to commit suicide because those around him did not accept him. He is in prison, which in itself is not easy, plus he is worried about mockery and loneliness. Imagine, we were in self-isolation for three months, and he has been doing this for almost two years. You need to understand that people who are in common cells in the same pre-trial detention center have milder conditions of detention. Nazar does not go for walks, and during quarantine, visits are also prohibited; members of the Public Monitoring Committee cannot visit him. The only people he sees now are the employees of the institution, who do not like him, because Nazar is not like everyone else. And he can’t hide from them anywhere. But I don't understand, if they are afraid that he will commit suicide and even send him to psychiatrists, why don't they just stop behaving like that? I saw him before quarantine, and even then he cried the entire date. I can’t imagine what’s happening to him now.”

Nazar is looked after by Anna Karetnikova, a former member of the Public Monitoring Committee, and now a leading analyst at the Moscow Federal Penitentiary Service. According to her, Gulevich’s main problem is loneliness. She says that in prisons they try to house transgender people together, but this is not always possible. “We would be happy to find a cellmate for Nazar, but we can’t yet, because there are few transgender people in percentage terms,” says Karetnikova. “At one time, another transgender man lived with Nazar, they became friends, and Nazar felt a little better. But then this man was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and he was transferred to another institution. It’s monstrous that Nazar is now alone most of the time. Unfortunately, if he is given a sentence, he will continue to be kept in isolation for his safety - already in a colony. It's hard to say what can be done for him in the current situation. Here the question is probably for the court and what type of punishment it will choose: related to imprisonment or not.”

Nazar's wife does not believe that he will be given solitary confinement in the colony. “I am not sure of the loyalty of the judge and the employees of the Federal Penitentiary Service. Most of all, I’m afraid that Nazar will be sent to the men’s detachment, because his documents are for men. But the genitals are female, so I’m scared to imagine what will happen in this case. Nazar is begging me to raise television and journalists, now I’m trying to get on the program with Andrei Malakhov,” she says.

Safe place and risk of violence

Experts interviewed by Snob believe that some transgender people who are serving sentences prefer to be invisible to human rights organizations due to pressure, fear of publicity and possible acts of violence and bullying. “Transgender people are in no hurry to turn to us for help,” says Sitting Rus' lawyer Olga Podoplelova, “however, I am convinced that when they end up in pre-trial detention centers and correctional institutions, they can face significant psychological, medical and physical difficulties, not to mention threats to personal safety."

According to Tatyana Glushkova, a lawyer at the Center for Legal Assistance for Transgender People, in men’s colonies the risk of encountering violence from other prisoners is many times higher than in women’s colonies. “First of all, this is due to the fact that in women’s colonies there is no prison hierarchy. In all-male colonies, transgender people are assigned to a lower caste by default. Whether they will be subjected to sexual violence depends on the situation in a particular place, but they will begin to break such a person psychologically in any case,” notes Leonid Agafonov, founder of the human rights project “Woman, Prison, Society” and a former member of the Public Monitoring Committee.

The organization Transgender Europe, in its report on the detention of trans people in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, writes that various measures have been developed at the international level to prevent violence in places of detention. These include carefully selecting who will share cells, implementing anti-bullying policies, and creating an anonymous complaint system. According to international standards, solitary confinement should be a last resort and not the main method of protection against violence. Prolonged confinement in solitary confinement may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and even torture, the UN report said.

In Russian colonies, they still try to isolate transgender people. To do this, they are placed in a safe place. Often this is a single cell-type room from which the prisoner is taken out for walks by the hour. Unlike a pre-trial detention center, where everyone is in relatively equal conditions, in a colony people live in groups, they have the opportunity to go outside, smoke, go to the cinema or to the canteen. Prisoners in a secure location are deprived of this opportunity. In addition, they cannot attend cultural events or participate in amateur activities. That is, staying in a safe place, in addition to influencing a person’s psychological state, reduces his chances of receiving incentives and, as a result, being granted parole.

A prisoner can get to a safe place only after he has written a statement and explained to the administration why it is necessary to take security measures. “No one guarantees that his request will be granted. The colony may decide that there is no danger, or they may leave the person in the detachment so that he begins to cooperate with the FSIN,” explains Agafonov. Moreover, not all colonies have special premises for organizing safe places. Sometimes they are placed in punishment cells.

“There is another aspect. According to the order of the Ministry of Justice, a person can be placed in a safe place for up to 90 days. If, after this time, staying in the detachment continues to pose a danger to the person, then he must be transferred to another correctional institution. That is, we do not provide for such a situation where a person sits in a safe place for the entire term. In an amicable way, during a person’s stay there, the administration of the colony must take measures aimed at resolving the situation due to which he began to be in danger. Will FSIN employees take such measures when it comes to transgender people, and what will these measures be? I don’t have answers to these questions,” says Glushkova.

Not all transgender people submit a statement to the administration that they want to serve their sentence in a safe place. Leonid Agafonov follows the fate of a transgender woman with male documents. She is in one of the men's colonies in the Leningrad region and lives with other prisoners in the detachment. “She belongs to a lower caste, but she tells members of the PMC that she does not need help,” says Agafonov. “We cannot say whether physical violence or psychological pressure was used against her, whether something happened with or without her consent. She refuses to talk about it. In any case, she was not sent alone because she did not ask for it. So far, human rights activists are trying to visit her, but they are doing nothing to avoid making things worse. She only has a little time left to sit.”

On condition of anonymity, a FSIN employee told Snob about the case of another transgender woman who was in a men’s colony near Smolensk and lived with other prisoners. “Her appearance was distinctly feminine: breasts, long hair, plucked eyebrows, ear clips. It was used to sort of break the stereotypes of those who arrived in the colony from the pre-trial detention center. New people arrived who said “Life is for thieves!”, and they were met by a transgender woman and offered to take the towel from her hands. According to prison rules, it was impossible to take him, because transgender people in prison belong to a lower caste. The colony administration is playing a dangerous game. Essentially, this is the deliberate exploitation of a transgender convict. From a legal point of view, I think there is no responsibility for this: the citizen has a male passport, and he lives in a male colony, in a general detachment. But such provocations using stereotypes of the criminal subculture can lead to unpredictable consequences. Of course, in the event of an emergency, an inspection will be carried out. What’s better – solitary confinement or something like this, risky, I don’t know.”


From time to time in Russia, the creation of separate cells, blocks, or even a separate colony is discussed as a possible solution to the problems associated with the imprisonment of transgender people. “Today this is the only way out when working with such criminals,” said Vladislav Grib, a member of the Public Council at the Federal Penitentiary Service, “since the presence of transgender people in ordinary cells is dangerous for them, it means suffering for their families and a sea of ​​problems for FSIN employees.” The idea was supported by LGBT activist Nikolai Alekseev and lawyer Pyotr Gusyatnikov.

Similar practices exist in other countries. In 2022, the UK Ministry of Justice announced the opening of the first department for transhuman prisoners. It will be installed in a wing of a prison in south London. Similar departments exist in the United States, but not in all prisons either.

Leonid Agafonov believes that something similar is unlikely to appear in Russia in the near future: “We need to understand what kind of country we live in. It seems to me that nothing will change for at least another 10–15 years. I think for now we can only hope that transgender people will be placed in a safe place, although this is also a controversial decision. Preferably in women’s colonies.”

"I live like a dog"

Transgender people in prison are not just a Russian problem. Transgender Europe has released a Report on police treatment and detention of trans people in Central and Eastern Europe and . The main problems for trans people behind bars are isolation and violence, the report says, “there is usually a rigid hierarchy in places of detention, and those at the bottom of this hierarchy are children, the elderly, people with disabilities or suffering from various diseases , gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people – suffer double or triple discrimination.”

I was beaten by 4-5 people at a time because I refused to have sex

Among the many examples of such discrimination cited in the report is the story of a transgender woman who spent seven years in various prisons in Armenia. She says LGBT people suffer the worst abuse and humiliation in prison. Being placed in solitary confinement does not help either, she claims: “Other prisoners gave 1000-2000 drams to the guards so that they would bring one of the gay or trans prisoners to their cell, they would be raped there, and then the same guard would take them away them back. I was beaten by 4-5 people at a time because I refused to have sex. It was clear from my entire appearance that I had been beaten, but none of the prison staff asked me anything.”

And here is a fragment of the story of a trans prisoner in a Brazilian prison: “...we are kept in cages. Believe me, I live like a dog. No table, no TV, no chair - nothing. I eat on the floor. I went completely wild. I don't know how much longer I can endure this. This is all too disgusting. Even dogs don't live long here. I'm desperate, I'm dying."

These stories give an idea of ​​what could await Sergei in the men's colony. Sergei is not the only transgender person in Russia who has ended up behind bars; now the lawyers of the Russian LGBT Network have four similar cases. Leonid Agafonov believes that the Ministry of Justice and the prosecutor’s office need to recognize this problem and try to provide special conditions for serving their sentences for men who did not have time to undergo full body correction. He calls the health problem no less serious than the security problem, since hormonal medications necessary for transgender people are not included in the compulsory medical insurance, and neither the Federal Penitentiary Service nor the Ministry of Justice will pay for them additionally. In addition, much depends on the goodwill of the FSIN employees - whether or not to take these drugs in programs for prisoners. In addition, transgender people are different - accordingly, their problems are also different.

She was sent to the punishment cell seven times and was shaved bald each time. This is a form of bullying - and the person has not even been convicted yet

“The other day I spoke with a transgender woman from Irkutsk, who has male documents and organs that are also male, she was kept in solitary confinement for 11 months,” says Agafonov. – The situation there is completely different, I talked to her via video call, she looks like a woman, wears a woman’s hairstyle. She complained most of all about the fact that during her time in the pre-trial detention center she was sent to a punishment cell seven times and each time she was specially shaved bald. This is a form of bullying - and the person has not even been convicted yet. We interviewed another transgender woman who spent five years in a men's prison. All this time she tried to make the transition and change her documents, but she was not allowed to do this. Now she has a woman's passport. She reluctantly recalls the violence she suffered in the colony, but says that she was forced to sleep with other men against her will. Everything there is very tough, naturally, she was in the caste of the “offended”. And I believe that if there are already four such cases, this is enough to seriously address this problem. It needs to be addressed systematically and radically.

From dream to dream. The head of the women's colony talks about the New Year, theater in prison and the wishes of convicts

| 30-12-2014

The heroes of Natalia Prigodich’s author’s project “From Dream to Dream” are people of different ages, nationalities, professions and social statuses. The main thing is that they go towards their dreams. And a dream, as you know, can change your whole life. So dream. Perhaps your story will appear on TUT.BY.

Correctional Colony No. 4, or, as it is popularly called, a women's prison, was created in April 1944. It is located in Gomel within the city limits - along Antoshkina Street. Over the course of 70 years, there have been nine bosses here. Colonel of the internal service Svetlana Pokhodova is the only woman head of a closed-type institution not only in the history of IK-4, but in the entire penitentiary system of Belarus. She has been working at IK-4 for 34 years, and as a chief for more than 10 years. Two years ago she was awarded the medal “For Impeccable Service”, 3rd class.

“Conditions of detention should not become another punishment”

In the women’s colony, where I’m going to find out what people dream about in an unfree territory (and whether they dream at all), about 1,400 convicts from all over Belarus are currently serving their sentences, as well as foreign women who have committed crimes on the territory of our country. Conditions of detention for citizens of Belarus and foreigners are the same.

— During the Soviet era, in particular in the mid-70s, about 300 convicts served their sentences in our colony. During the perestroika years, its occupancy was three times higher than the established limit - more than 3,500 convicts, women had to sleep on the floor. Therefore, we built new dormitories, which made it possible to create normal conditions for their maintenance,

- said the head of the correctional colony.

Svetlana Pokhodova says that when she was just appointed to this position, Leonid Ivanovich Zenkevich, who worked in the penitentiary system for many years, advised her not to rebuild anything, but to build. He has been building since then.

One of the dormitories for convicts on the territory of the women's colony

Over the past 8 years, an administrative building, a new building of a bath and laundry plant, a 4-story medical unit, and a church have been built. In place of the barracks and panel houses, two new dormitories for convicts grew: bright corridors, spacious rooms with bunk beds, a room with a TV for educational activities, a dressing room for outerwear, a room for meals where you can have a snack and drink tea or coffee.

It has its own hairdresser, canteen, and gyms for prisoners and colony employees. All this, says the head of IK-4, is provided for by the internal regulations.

Dormitory room for convicts

The territory of the colony is similar to a small village. The medical unit is not inferior to city clinics: it has everything necessary for treatment - from modern ultrasound machines to a dental office, as well as wards for inpatient treatment.

Dental office in the medical unit

The only thing that immediately catches your eye is the offices with the sign “psychiatrist-narcologist.”

— Those convicted under Article 107, according to the verdict, must undergo compulsory drug treatment for alcoholism for a year and for drug addiction for two years,

— explained Svetlana Pokhodova.

The new store has a fairly wide assortment (for prisons): cosmetics, cakes, New Year's gifts, clothes. The convicts with whom I had a chance to talk said that previously there were restrictions on the purchase of tea, cigarettes and other goods, and coffee was generally prohibited - now these prohibitions have been lifted.

There are no bars on the windows throughout the entire territory of the penal colony, with the exception of a small one-story building in which the punishment cell is located. As Svetlana Pokhodova explained, you can end up in it for gross violation of regime requirements and conflict.

There are currently 20 children aged from birth to three years in the children's home of the correctional colony. But people here remember the times when there were twice as many children.

— Over the past 10 years, only one convict, having been released, left her child at the station. Then she returned to prison. And so, at least here, there were no abandonments of children,

- said the interlocutor.
“We have a convict who was deprived of parental rights to three children; she came to the penitentiary colony pregnant and gave birth to her fourth child here.
Now she hopes, but no - she’s just sure that this child will change and turn everything around in her life and that she will take those children of hers too. She realized everything, she says. Life will tell... Svetlana Pokhodova said that five minor girls are currently serving their sentences in IK-4:

— There were times when we had 80 minors serving sentences. Now a lot of work is being done with difficult teenagers; they are sent to a colony in exceptional cases.

The head of IK-4 dreams of reconstructing the site for their detention. There is another dream - to make a painting inside the church.

A church was recently built in the women's colony

“The woman has already been punished by serving time.” The conditions of detention should not become a second punishment for her,

— Svetlana Pokhodova is convinced.

When asked whether the convicts would want to return to such luxurious conditions again, the interlocutor replied:

- Any person living in normal conditions will work normally. We are not creating anything supernatural for these women. We do not have cell-by-cell housing, there are no separate residential sections for 3-4 people. In one section we house from 12 to 35 people. I always say: a cage, even if it is golden, is still a cage. Yes, for women who led an asocial lifestyle in freedom, these are luxurious conditions. But they are temporary people and, having been in good conditions for several years, they may want to put their house in order when they are free.

— I visited closed institutions in Russia, Germany and Sweden. For example, in Sweden, each convict has her own cell. It is closed in the evening and opened in the morning. Walk - one hour a day. We have no such restrictions

— Svetlana Pokhodova continues.
“The Swedes were very surprised when they found out that we were holding more than ten people in one room.
We just have a different mentality. Let me give you one example from life: two women who served their sentences in the same detachment for about 10 years were released and talked for two hours “under the zone” and could not part. There are only two women's prisons in Belarus. In addition to IK-4, where women sentenced to imprisonment for the first time are kept, there is also IK-24 in Zarechye, Rechitsa district, for serving their sentences for convicts who have repeatedly been imprisoned.

- But this does not mean that the biography of women who enter IK-4 was impeccable before,

- the interlocutor explained.
“Some of them already have 5-6 criminal records, but this is the first time they have been sent to prison by a court verdict: they previously served a suspended sentence, were subject to forced labor, and were under house arrest.
When all measures of influence were exhausted, and they continued to ignore the court verdict, Art. 415 (Evasion from serving a sentence in the form of restriction of freedom) of the Criminal Code, and the convicted person was sent to prison. This article provides for imprisonment for up to 3 years. “I dreamed of becoming a clothing technologist”

Svetlana Pokhodova admits that she does not perceive such words as “zechka”, “bunks” and the like. He also doesn’t like watching feature films about women in prison.

“Maybe somewhere there are such terrible conditions in closed correctional facilities, or maybe these are the imaginations of the screenwriter and director. Don't know. But in our penal colony there is definitely no such horror as shown in the movies,

- she says.
— It is well known that Boris Moiseev’s mother was a convict, and he was born in prison in the Gomel region.
Boris Moiseev came to our colony to donate humanitarian aid for the orphanage. He came to meet me and was very surprised: he said he imagined a thunder woman with a belt, a baton and a pistol. (Laughs.)

Svetlana Pokhodova admits that in her youth she never dreamed of a profession in uniform, much less of working with convicts - she ended up working in the penal colony by accident.

“I didn’t plan to stay here for long, but it so happened that I went from a quality control inspector to the director of a sewing enterprise, and then to the head of the colony. I studied at the Vitebsk College of Light Industry and dreamed of becoming a technologist at a garment factory. After graduating from college, my husband and I came to Gomel. The only place where I was hired in my specialty was IK-4. And I agreed. This is an ordinary sewing production, only the seamstresses are special. I was sure that this was temporary, then I would move to a garment factory. Already working in the colony, she entered the Ryazan Higher School of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, from which she graduated in 1991. The staff at IK-4 is good, and I decided to stay.

In the women's prison, those sentenced to both 24 years and six months are serving sentences. Women who received long sentences were formed into teams in the most difficult areas of work.

Now the IK-4 garment factory is equipped with the latest equipment, ranging from an automated designer’s workstation to the latest semi-automatic products processing machines.

Externally, the sewing workshops where convicts work are not much different from ordinary garment factories. Upon release, women receive a certificate with the assignment of a seamstress specialty from 2 to 5 categories - in places of imprisonment they receive a profession.

Government orders account for more than 90% of the sewing enterprise. Here they sew uniforms for the Ministry of Defense, the Department of Finance and Logistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, border guards, the Investigative Committee, forestry, and internal troops.

In the sample room. All this is sewn by women serving sentences

— Since 1971, we have been fulfilling orders from the USSR Ministry of Defense, sewing underwear, pillowcases, sheets, handkerchiefs and collar pads. During the Soviet era, production volumes were enormous. After the collapse of the Union, our sewing enterprise practically did not work, all partnerships were severed. We began working with the Ministry of Trade of Belarus - we sewed women's dresses, then padded jackets. Around 2003, stable orders appeared and production began to flourish again.

Theater in prison

Svetlana Pokhodova is one of those people who are not afraid to experiment. One of the large-scale experiments is the “Theater in Prison” project, in which prisoners with long sentences take part. In just nine years, 55 convicts were involved in the productions.

The project began in 2004, when the Swedish actor Jon Jonson visited Belarus, who staged performances in prisons in Sweden and America with the participation of life prisoners and those sentenced to long terms. The project was approved by the Department of Execution of Punishments of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Belarus and began to live in Belarusian correctional institutions. By the way, they tried to implement it in Ukraine and Russia, but there it all ended with the staging of just one performance. Svetlana Pokhodova says that thanks to the actor and director of the Gomel Regional Drama Theater Alexey Bychkov, the “Theater in Prison” project has been living in IK-4 for nine years.

Scene from the play “God Loves.” On stage are “actresses” serving sentences in IK-4

— Performances allow women to switch to another life without breaking down internally,

- says the interlocutor.

Over the years, 8 performances have been staged as part of the “Theater in Prison” project. But the experiment did not stop there. A private screening of the first two performances took place on the stage of the regional drama theater. The convicts went on tour to Minsk (DC "Matrix"), Mozyr (IK-20 for men) and Zarechye of the Rechitsa district (IK-24 for women). And in 2010, there was a completely unprecedented case in the penitentiary system of Belarus: in a sitcom, employees of this secure institution played along with convicts from IK-4.

Svetlana Pokhodova is convinced that the main purpose of the penitentiary system is to give a person a chance to realize what he has done and return to normal life: translated from Latin, poenitentia is not “isolation”, but “repentance.”

“The practical viability of the project is evidenced by the fact that the “actresses” who participated in the first performance have already been released, of which only one of them returned to prison: she had previously served a sentence for murder, and after her release she was convicted of a petty crime - theft.

“Convicts dream of only one thing - to be freed as soon as possible”

“The mothers of convicts often call me and cry. They dream of seeing their daughters free, many say they won’t survive this,

— said Svetlana Pokhodova.
“I tell them, there is no horror here that you imagine.” Many people think stereotypically: since this is a prison, it means there are dark cells in which women lie on bunks. Yes, we have a security institution, there is work, a certain plan, movement around the territory is regulated, there is a uniform - you have committed a crime, be responsible for your actions. The most important thing, I tell mothers in such cases, is that your daughter is alive, and everything else can be corrected.

During our conversation, convict Alla, who has been in prison for six months, enters Pokhodova’s office. She asks for a long-term date: she recently got married here in the colony.

“We even give wedding dresses to convicts.”

- says Svetlana Pokhodova.
— A registry office employee comes here to register the marriage, and you can invite a photographer.
This year we had about 10 marriage registrations. —What do you dream of most?

— I ask Alla.

- Return home to my husband. I will never come here again in my life. I don’t dream about a child, I had an operation, I won’t be able to give birth. My term ends in December next year, but I hope that in March there will be a commission and I will be released early.

Alla said that her first conviction was in 2010, then, according to a court verdict, she received 6 months of imprisonment, suspended for one year. But less than a year had passed since she was convicted under Part 2 of Art. 212 (Theft from an ATM card) of the Criminal Code. She says she took a bank card from her roommate’s sister and withdrew money from it.

When Alla left, Svetlana Pokhodova said that Article 212 is no longer uncommon:

“We have a woman serving a sentence who repeatedly withdrew money from her mother’s card. Now her mother calls, comes on dates and asks: “Let her go.” I explain to her that we do not have the authority to release convicts, we only have the right to consider the possibility of early release.

The head of the correctional colony said that there are other letters from mothers.

— Here a woman writes: “I ask you not to let my daughter out of prison. Let him sit from bell to bell and earn at least some pennies, which will go to the children.” And this is not an isolated letter of this kind.

Convicts write letters to the head of the colony and even dedicate poems

Svetlana Pokhodova says that all convicts who are in prison, like Alla, dream of only one thing - to be released soon, to have an amnesty law, to have some kind of revisions.

“They claim that after their release, the first thing they will do is get a job, restore parental rights and take the children. By the way, this is a big problem now: 15% of convicts from our penitentiary have been deprived of parental rights and are serving a sentence for malicious evasion of paying expenses for the maintenance of their children. Here they say that as soon as they are released, they will take care of their children. But, unfortunately, in most cases these dreams remain dreams.

Svetlana Pokhodova says that upon being released, not a single convict said: “I’m not confident in myself, I’ll commit a crime anyway,” everyone leaves with the dream of starting a new life.

— An amnesty law was recently passed. We applied it to those whose articles are suitable. But some of those released under the amnesty of previous years committed crimes again and returned to prison. It’s just that for many it’s a way of life; they can’t live any other way.

Former convicts who have settled their lives in freedom also write letters to the head of the colony: “I promised you that everything would be fine with me, and I kept my promise.”

Svetlana Pokhodova asks the senior inspector of the headquarters, Ekaterina, to show me the new dormitories for convicts. On the way, I ask the colony employee what she dreams about. Get married and have a child, the girl answers. Later I asked her colleague Natalya the same question.

“After graduating from the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, my husband and I work in this correctional colony. I dream about a child

- Natalya smiles.
“Here, in the colony, I saw enough of women who made so many mistakes in their lives.
They limit themselves in their dreams. I want nothing like this to happen in my life. “We are postponing curfew for the New Year”

In the closed area, you can also feel the approach of the New Year: cakes and New Year's gifts were brought to the store.

Convicts buy food for the New Year. They even have the opportunity to buy caviar on request for the holiday. True, there is one “but”: a limit on purchases (if the convicted person does not have claims or damage caused by the crime, then she can spend up to 6 basic units per month, if there is one, one basic amount on food and the same amount on basic items necessary. - TUT.BY). By the way, the “Give a Dream” campaign is currently taking place in IK-4. Women serving sentences can purchase custom-made New Year's gifts for their children, but they are allowed to spend money in excess of the established limit.

— For the New Year, the convicts will be shown a theatrical performance in the club, which they prepare on their own,

— said Svetlana Pokhodova.
— On December 31, one shift will see her in the morning, and the second in the afternoon. There will definitely be a Christmas tree with garlands in the club, in the orphanage and in each squad. We are also holding a “Decorate Your Squad” campaign. Of course, we don’t have glowing garlands or glass balls. Women cut out snowflakes from paper and make paper garlands.

Window of one of the dormitories on the territory of IK-4

But most importantly, on New Year’s Eve, the penal colony administration allows prisoners to celebrate the New Year.

— At the request of the convicts, we are moving the curfew time from 22.00, as required by the detention regime, to one in the morning. Women will be able to watch holiday TV shows, hear the chimes and plunge into the holiday atmosphere.

Finally, I ask my interlocutor if she has dreams that are not related to work.

- Eat. So that there is no war. When we talked about this before, we didn’t understand how close and real it could be. If there is no war, you can dream about a lot,

— Svetlana Pokhodova answered.
“I also want my mother to live longer.” She and my husband are the closest people to me. Thanks to the business women's club, I recently visited Israel and one of the Canary Islands, and now I have a new dream - to travel. In general, a person lives as long as he dreams, and dreams as long as he lives.

Bridgett Chaplin


Judging by Bridgette's flirty and playful photos, she was a pretty girl who loved to have fun. But the fun led to imprisonment - the girl was accused of forgery of documents, identity theft and 60 other crimes. Total 62. The 32-year-old girl illegally used the personal information of at least 1,000 people. She stole driver's licenses, passports, Social Security cards, bank cards and even store membership cards. Ayyyyyy, Bridgette.

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