March 16, 1996 in Nation/World

‘Bullet Is Cheaper Than New Prisons’

Compiled From Wire Services

The Russian government has sentenced an increasing number of convicts to death because it lacks the money to expand overcrowded prisons, a prominent human rights activist said Friday.

“A bullet is cheaper than new prisons,” Lev Razgon, member of a presidential commission that reviews pleas to commute sentences, wrote in the influential daily Izvestia.

In 1991, President Boris Yeltsin created the commission, consisting of human rights campaigners, novelists and other well-known figures, in a bid to reverse the Soviet-era tradition of broad use of capital punishment.

On the commission’s advice, Yeltsin began commuting most death sentences to life imprisonment. But last year, the trend suddenly reversed.

Last year, Yeltsin began disregarding the commission’s recommendations, rejecting 86 appeals for pardon, compared to 19 the previous year and only four in 1993, Razgon said.

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