editorial

The Good Life

24.10.2011 | kyivweekly.com.ua

Oppositionists changing life from the inside out

Who stands to benefit from ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko´s conviction? Convicted inmates across Ukraine may soon be rejoicing. With more and more of the high profile opposition leaders finding themselves behind bars these days, the public could soon be seeing a movement to improve conditions within the penal system. Conditions are deplorable, and have changed little since soviet days. The public has been getting firsthand accounts of the appalling state of penitentiaries from ex-Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko´s weekly letters to the press. This brings an interesting perspective from one who has been on both sides. Moreover, few outside of family members seem concerned. Yet, the whole country and, particularly, the government should be worried. Ukraine has the highest rates of transmission of tuberculosis and HIV in Europe, causing great concern to world health organizations. A big part of this problem is the rapid spread of these diseases in the prison system, and subsequently to others on the outside. Conditions on the inside have hardly gathered government interest, and the public too has little sympathy for wrongdoers. Nevertheless, inmates must at least have a basic standard of sanitation, heating and food so as not to spread diseases to the greater population. Unlike the West, there are also no counseling or social programs for inmates to help them adapt or reform. Anger management or addictions counseling are unheard of - and these are the major factors in crime in Ukraine today. If Ukraine hopes to aspire to be a first world society, penitentiary reforms, health care and social programs for the elderly are good places to start. One can also expect standards to rise among inmates. With students, small business people and opposition politicians filling inmate ranks, they will begin public campaigns to rid the prisons of cockroaches, lice, leaky roofs, moldy showers, and start literature classes, exercise sessions, and practical advice on running a business. Already at Lukianenko prison, in the women´s section, Tymoshenko has rid the exercise yard walls of foul language graffiti to be replaced by brilliant white paint. The irony of the authorities efforts to incarcerate oppositionists is that the latter may do more for inmates than the state ever has.

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