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Welcome to Malaya Rodina ('Little Homeland') : gender and penal order in a Russian penal colony

Piacentini, L.F. and Pallot, Judith and Moran, Dominique (2009) Welcome to Malaya Rodina ('Little Homeland') : gender and penal order in a Russian penal colony. Social and Legal Studies, 18 (4). pp. 523-542. ISSN 0964-6639

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Abstract

This article presents findings from research conducted in a penal colony for young women in Russia. Russia's penal system remains under-researched in socio-legal and criminological scholarship. This contribution is the first multi-disciplinary study of Russian imprisonment to be conducted in the post-Soviet period, bringing together criminology, human geography and law. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 was a landmark moment in Russia's penal trajectory due to the excessive scale and use of imprisonment as a political and cultural corrective. Our findings reveal the punishment of young women in Russia as exceptional and exclusionary. Personnel play a crucial role in shaping penal strategies that encourage young women to adopt blame and shame sensibilities. We develop a conceptualization of Russian penality as it relates to young women prisoners. We argue that the prisoner transport is the first stage in a continuum where gender, penal order and culture come together come together to create a specific penological place identity, which we conceptualize as Malaya Rodina (Little Homeland). We conclude that Russia's penal geography, and its attendant penological imagination, is a vestige of the Soviet penal monolith.