A report from The Guardian today (October 23, 2012) investigates the decision to send the remaining imprisoned members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot to a prison colony. Having watched their fellow band member, Yekaterina Samutsevich granted freedom, the two remaining band members still incarcerated, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, this week learned of their prison destination.
Maria and Nadezhda will serve the remainder of their two-year terms at Perm, Siberia and Mordovia, respectively. The prison camps have been described, by the band, as “the harshest camps of all the possible choices.” The prison in Mordovia is 400km away from the capital, meaning that it will be incredibly difficult for family members to visit; female prisoners in Russia are deliberately sent to remote areas to serve their punishment. The Guardian report offers an insight into what the band members can expect from their time at the correctional facilities, courtesy of Judith Pallot, who had previously researched the facilities in 2007-8.
These correctional colonies are described as being “unlike any prisons in the west.” The institutions are divided into ‘otyrads’ – a physical space occupied by between 100 – 120 people, in cramped conditions. In order to bid for early release, prisoners are expected to engage in ‘cultural’ activities, such as the annual beauty pageant. One inmate told Pallot “I usually try to hide behind a book or embroidery or I try to escape to somewhere. There are 120 people in the otryad. You can't even be alone in the toilet! And sometimes you think – God, will there ever be peace? Isn't there anywhere I can be alone?”