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(en) avtonom: How Belarusian prisons riot - Nikolay Dedok [machine translation]
Thu, 18 Apr 2019 08:41:38 +0300
Desperate people are able to rebel even in the most difficult conditions. But these
uprisings are often not similar to what we imagine. ---- On November 6, 2018, the
Belarusian social networks stirred up information about a riot in Ivatsevichy colony No.
22 ("Wolf holes"). It was reported that this happened on the night from Saturday to
Sunday, and all the convicts took part in the riot in all the detachments. Nothing is
known about the rebellion, except that the doors to the detachments were blocked (most
likely, they meant wickets to local areas of the barracks - the so-called "lokalki") and
that several administration representatives were injured. Requirement - remove the
authorities of the colony. ---- We don't know about the reasons that provoked the riot,
the reaction of the administration and the consequences. To make more or less reasonable
assumptions about this, you need to look at the situation through the prism of the
specifics of prison riots in general.
"I will not do it"
The prison revolt rarely takes the form of "riots" - breaking something, arson attacks on
administration officials. If such attacks took place in IK-22, then it is rather an
exception. The reason is simple: prison rules and the entire prison social model are built
on the order-execution vertical. To break it, it is enough to refuse to execute the order.
Moreover, the internal regulations allow the officers to use force against prisoners who
refuse to obey orders. Simply put, a prisoner can be absolutely legally beaten, for
example, for refusing to go to work. Or for refusing to clean toilets.
To rebel in the colony - not much. It is enough to demand the officer to say: "I will not
In 2010, I witnessed a local revolt in IK-15. There, the local administration practiced
circular responsibility in the punishment of convicts and forced the entire quarantine
unit (about 50 people) to march back and forth for violation of discipline by one.
Humiliating, disgusting - but they did it all. Until that time, two political prisoners
drove into quarantine.
Once we were trying to get marched for the fact that the 18-year-old boy smoked at night
in the toilet. But this caused organized resistance: it was agreed in advance that no one
was marching. Instigated by three prisoners, a detachment of 50 people refused to march,
despite the cries of members of the security department. True, right up until the moment
when these three were not taken out of the ranks, and cuffs were not distributed to the rest.
But for the administration it was a real state of emergency. And after him, such marching
was no longer practiced.
A prison riot is almost always a riot of the doomed. The prisoners live in a confined
space, and they understand that they all still have to serve time. Living constantly under
the fear of using violence against them, under a strict system of "carrots and sticks"
(where the whip is SHIZO, deprivation of meetings and broadcasts, battered, and the carrot
is of dates, transmissions and parole) without a stable and, most importantly, successful
resistance (unlike, for example, from the imprisoned US prisons, which even have their own
associations and trade unions), they are not really inclined to revolt, because they
understand that victory is unlikely, and punishment will have to be borne in any case.
That the rebellion will be crushed is understandable even before it starts. The bonuses
from easing the regime and stopping the bullying loom somewhere far away, and even they
will not be available to everyone, but only to those who remain in this colony and will
not be taken out after the suppression of the rebellion.
The prisoner who rebels is not a hipster who went outside with a poster, because he is
convinced that the law and the Constitution are on his side. It is always a desperate man.
Every rebel in the colony is aware that he will have to be 100% punished. Depending on the
degree of participation, this may be a transfer to "covered" or PKT, ten, twenty or more
days of the ShIZO. There is no need to talk about a long and long beating - this is, so to
speak, a mandatory minimum. For organizers, however, there are articles 410 and 411 of the
Criminal Code of the Republic of Belarus, meaning that the release is delayed for many
Therefore, in order to rebel in prison, one must have real courage and despair.
Riot or parole?
The prison riot is almost never supported by all. Therefore, the message in the news that
he was supported by "all the convicts in all units" is in doubt. This is possible only in
one case - a strong structure of informal power and solidarity between prisoners, which
would mean severe penalties for potential "strikebreakers" for trying to refuse to
participate in a riot. It is very unlikely that such a structure existed in IK-22.
But most importantly, a good 10-15% of the prison population is so-called. "Goats" are
convicts cooperating with the administration, having real privileges from it and, most
importantly, a chance for early release. Usually these are people with long terms. To
participate in a riot for them is to put an end to privileges and the prospect of getting
free earlier. And if a person, for example, has a term of 25 years, there is a difference
for him: to support the rebellion and to be released after 25 years, or to "calm down" and
free himself, say, 7 years earlier - after eighteen.
Could not know?
Any rebellion becomes possible if there is an organizing force. Someone must prepare
actions, agree with the circle of participants (at least the initial). In the past, these
were thieves: the guides of "thieves' romance" and informal concepts of the underworld.
Over time, when the culture, ethics, and organizational structure of these groups were
significantly eroded, the usual convicts became increasingly rebellious, meaning not the
imposition of thieves, but a concrete improvement in the quality of life. By the way, this
trend applies not only to Belarusian prisons, but also to Russian ones, where in
"infinite" and "torture" zones, in which thieves cannot be, by definition, large speeches
also take place.
Here it is important to understand that in order to prevent "illegal actions" in the
colony there is an entire operational department staffed with officers with higher
education. It is their responsibility to stop such speeches even before they begin.
Through their informers from among the other prisoners, they receive information on the
preparation of any disobedience and take measures: they transfer the instigators to the
PTO, to another zone, etc.
For a number of reasons, including such as the decline of traditional prison culture, many
convicts are willing to go to an informal job as informants for operatives: some for the
prospect of parole, some for a pack of cigarettes. I knew the troops, where, according to
the general opinion, up to 70% of the population "knocked". It is clear that in such
conditions, operatives simply cannot be aware of something that is being prepared.
Therefore, if in IK-22 there was still a rebellion, and even such a massive one, that is,
the investigators had information, but did not take it seriously.
In this connection, the fact that IK-22 is a colony for convicts under narcotic articles
becomes especially interesting. Moreover, for those who have not served their sentence.
The collective image of a resident of this colony: a man whose age is much younger than
the average, usually from Minsk or from the regional center, the wealth of his family is
average or higher. He remembers the free life, has a long life, but has no chance of early
release - he was cut off for "narcotic" articles in accordance with Decree No. 3. Add here
a very tough regime of detention in all the "narcotic" zones - as Lukashenko demanded,
"that they ask for death". It was this explosive connection of factors that could be the
cause that provoked a riot in IK-22.
The rights of prisoners are violated absolutely everywhere, but few are decided on
organized resistance. If the prisoners of IK-22 still achieve at least some of their
demands, this should be a lesson for all those who continue to silently endure injustice
on both sides of the fence.
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