Prison reform in the post-Soviet region is often part of anti-organized crime policy. The camps of the Soviet Union developed highly complex informal systems of self-governance among prisoners that later formed a backdrop for the practices of organized crime outside the prison. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union all successor states have attempted in some way to reform this system in the language of fighting organized crime as opposed to human rights or improving conditions. However, during reform, prison disturbances and violence appear to increase. The project aims to understand generally the effects of reform on social order and relations among prisoners as well as the micro-sociological bases for violence and disturbances during reform.
The project takes three case studies, Lithuania, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan. These are chosen broadly on the independent variable: the presence of prison reform. Through in depth interviewing of ex prisoners and prisoners about their lives in the reforming prison system, the analysis of government reports and statistics the project will provide a comparative account of the effects of reform on interpersonal violence as well as the governance of social life in prison.
The project aims to have impacts for prison sociologists on our understanding of prison life in extreme transition, human rights advocates, policy-makers and the international community as to what reform means and what it actually achieves in these countries. The project will also speak to those studying forms of order in prison in an international perspective, providing case studies from a non-Western region often neglected by criminologists.