News media glare prompts Soviet labor-camp reforms

The Soviet labor-camp administration has announced a program of reforms intended, it says, to reduce abuses and improve the lot of inmates. The announcement appeared late last month in the newspaper Izvestia following a series of articles exposing ill-treatment of prisoners and inefficient use of their labor.

The articles, written by Siberian journalist Leonid Shinkarev, were cited in the Monitor Oct. 4.

Lt. Gen. I.N. Kartagin, head of the corrective labor administration, signed the statement in Izvestia on behalf of the Interior Ministry, which directs law enforcement agencies.

Admitting the truth of Mr. Shinkarev's charge that prisoners were sent to Siberia at the request of economic agencies to make up for a shortage of labor and were used to meet industrial construction and production plans ``at any cost,'' Mr. Kartagin pledged to improve the living and working conditions of Soviet prisoners.

A cleanup already under way, Kartagin said, has brought about the dismissal of more than 5,000 camp officers deemed unfit and the hiring of 7,000 new ones.

A ``radical revision'' of laws governing corrective labor has been undertaken, he declared, with the aim of encouraging inmates who show signs of going straight and ``firm measures against those who continue a parasitic way of life.''

Fifty-one labor camps have been included in an experimental system allowing time off for good behavior. Barbed wire is to be removed. Juvenile delinquents are to be allowed to telephone their parents, and the humane methods employed in reformatories for juveniles in the 1920s by the famous educator A.S. Makarenko are to be introduced in colonies for youthful offenders.

Kartagin credited the Soviet press and television, and specifically Shinkarev's articles, with calling attention to abuses in the corrective labor system and promised to cooperate with the media in following through the reform.

He gave no figures on the number of labor camps or prisoners.

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