(c) by Olga Saliy
I moved a lot in Russian prisons as a photojournalist. Now I live in Thailand and started checking on our Russian prisoners here. I was shocked by one thing.
A lot of foreigners go to Thai jail for visit strangers prisoners here — it is normal. Russian does not go to Russian prisoners — only other foreigners come to them.
We used to be closed from the world of prisoners in Russia and as a result this world is closed to us. It seems that in our society the two worlds — one is separated from the other. But they are the same inside.
It’s like making one leg opponent’s to other leg. It’s creepy and it’s weird. Look at these faces in the photographs. This EDUCATIONAL CORRECTIONAL INSTITUT. I have no strength to understand something in this «system» …
The first time I being in the teen prison, I forgot that it is «educational institution» — the prison as a prison. And then we went on the gray area — on the horizon barbed wire. And someone said: «We are in the educational institution.» I was just a shock — and I began to think about the word «educational».
It is strange that such a method is chosen for education. Because everything is gray and prickly here. There is practice in Europe when teenager who commits an offense just out of the court sent a traveling with a circus for example. And this is considered a «reeducation». And many of teens are returned to the circus later. Or they were sent to Africa in a humanitarian mission, where teenagers build a school, wells, etc.
And after the Russian prison teenager returned to prison for adults.
Most of the «inmates» is falling here from shelters or alcoholic parents. They are for 14-18 years. They are taken out of the parade ground, I look at them and try to see someone in a drop of self-love or life, and I understand that this is unrealistic. This is another side of human life.
These are children who can be seen in many of the streets of Russia. They have not loved, not caring, not feeding. They grow from birth, while walking in the yards of grubby, smoking cigarette butts in the corners and the «good» children are prohibited to communicate with them.
The boy-prisoner told me that he was ashamed to write home about, that they are well fed here, because he knows that his family does not have a good meal. These kids are going to steal as we go into the store. They kill their parents, trying to save their lives from the constant violence.
One prisoner from the prison of special treatment, saying that the teens prisoners — these are the most cruel and perverted minds in prison. And the teenage prison in which he had once been — the limitless of the zones.
85% of released prisoners in Russia back in jail again.
I remember all persons who are in my photos. When I had first arrived in prison № 2 in Novosibirsk, I saw one familiar face there. I see the initials on the badge: «AN». And I know that I made pictures of this prisoner, but in a other prison. I’m in this jail for the first time.
- I am glad to see you! — «AN» shines when he saw me.
And then I hear that the AN recently released from prison, number 3, where I made the picture two years ago. And a month after his release, he came here for stealing — for two and a half years.
Now I know that there are many Russian prison inmates who commit crimes specifically for to be in prison.
Because they have no home or relatives. They are released from prison and immediately become homeless. There have precise ways for returning back to prison. Some lived most of his life in prisons. There is a bed to sleep and there is no need to think about tomorrow.
The most quiet prison is a «special mode». There are prisoners for life, or many times in a row or for the death penalty. It looks very quiet people — no affectation and unnecessary words.
9 and 10 August 2011 we were in hospital’s prison and women’s prison — just two days, one after another.
In hospital-prison are all the sick prisoners. There are a few people die here every week. Operation — is a blank wall and the old equipment. In the Russian prison can not be hurt, because it is easier to die than to be treated.
These barracks are like houses in a school camp in the Soviet era. It is very clean and tidy here. And a handful of women. Women have «men» — they wear pants. And there are «women» — they are in skirts.
Women are clever and changeable as water. And men — as the roots. I do not think that many of these prisoners in the prison hospital, have six months or fewer days for life and they will soon die. They are dry and tough stand here and this is strange. Men without women like a forest of dry trees without leaves.
And a lot of women — it’s just a pack of feminine). Like a bunch of leaves on the ground.
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