News | 08.10.13 | 16:37
Get Out of Jail Day: Armenia’s 9th amnesty of prisoners to begin today
The amnesty applies also to oppositional Armenian National Congress activist Tigran Arakelyan, viewed by the opposition as a political prisoner, sentenced to six years of imprisonment. As Arakelyan's and the other three ANC activists’ cases are under investigation at the Criminal Court of Appeal, the amnesty decision will be read in court when the verdict is brought in. Reserve army colonel Vladimir Karapetyan, charged will major fraud, will also be released from custody.
As justice minister's assistant Nikolay Arustamyan told the press, besides the 600 released convicts the amnesty applies to another 1,000 whose remaining terms will be reduced. The amnesty will also apply to those sentenced to alternative punishment (fines, community service/penal labor).
In the history of independent Armenia this is the 9th amnesty, which, as compared to others, covers larger scope of articles of the criminal code, however does not apply to life sentence, state treason, usurpation of power, espionage, sabotage, crimes of sexual character, drug dealing.
The amnesty will greatly relieve the overload at penitentiaries. Arustamyan says those institutions are built to room up to 4,100 people, while there are currently 4,700 convicts. The overpopulation issue has been raised repeatedly by local human rights activists and the Ombudsman's office.
In reference to the claims that the amnesty is now declared to solve that very issue of overpopulation of prisons, Arustamyan says: “Next year we will have a new Criminal Procedure Code and as a result imprisonment as a punitive means will be practiced less, which means the amount of convicts will decrease; instead our courts will start practicing more alternative punishment. And, besides, Armavir penitentiary will start functioning since January 2014 and the overpopulation issue will get solved regardless.”
The new penitentiary is designed to room 1,200 convicts; however next year it will be ready to receive only 400 people.
Apart from the overpopulation issue, Arustamyan says, the amnesty is of economic help to the country, as the expenses for keeping the convicts are reduced (the state allots 4,395 drams ($10.70) per convict per day). Arustamyan assures the number of recurrent crimes has not grown since last amnesty.
Arustamyan said that after a similar amnesty in 2011 there has been 5.8 percent recidivism “which, as compared to Europe, is a rather small figure”.
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