Russia’s federal budget revenue has seen a significant upswing due to prison labor, which has just brought in double the amount from prison labor for 2016 to 2022. Data from the Russian Finance Ministry revealed that in 2022, the federal budget received a staggering 19.1 billion rubles ($192.4 million) from the forced labor performed by incarcerated persons for state and private companies – a substantial increase from the 8.8 billion rubles ($89.4 million) in 2016.
A lucrative revenue stream
The Moscow Times reports,
Russia reintroduced compulsory labor as a form of criminal punishment in 2017.
More than 26,000 inmates in the country’s prisons are performing forced labor for 1,700 commercial organizations, MT Russian reported, citing Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN).
Companies such as leading e-commerce company Ozon, Russian Railways, the truck manufacturer KAMAZ and Russia’s largest tank manufacturer Uralvagonzavod use inmates’ labor.
A source of wartime production
Russia has the biggest proportion of people behind bars in Europe, with an incarceration rate of 434 prisoners per 100,000 people. Like the U.S. prison system, the commercialization of forced labor in prisons raises concerns about the potential compromises of fundamental human rights and legal protections.
The British Defense Ministry is especially concerned about Russia utilizing its prison population to meet wartime demands.
“The prison population provides a unique human resource to Russian leaders to utilize in support of the ‘special military operation’ while willing volunteers remain in short supply.”
A recent report uncovered horrifying details of Ukrainian civilians being detained in Russia and occupied territories. Held without charge or status under Russian law, they are being used as bargaining chips for prisoner exchanges and free labor in the ongoing conflict, being forced under threat of torture or worse to build fortifications for soldiers along the front lines.
The U.N. reports a total of 37 detention facilities in Russia and Belarus and 125 in occupied Ukraine. However, Russia plans to create 25 new prison colonies and six more detention centers in occupied Ukraine by 2026, as revealed in a leaked government document obtained by the Associated Press.
Take action against prison slavery
The latest Global Estimates of Modern Slavery report found that 1 in 7 cases of forced labor is state imposed with 9 million people forced to work by the state at any point in time – over half of which are cases involving some form of prison labor.
The Freedom United community takes a strong stance against forced labor – no exceptions. That’s why we’re campaigning against forced labor detention camps in the Uyghur Region of China and against forced labor in American prisons.