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Carceral framing of human rights in Russian prisons

Piacentini, Laura and Katz, Elena (2016) Carceral framing of human rights in Russian prisons. Punishment and Society. ISSN 1462-4745

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    This paper introduces to punishment and society scholarship a new carceral framing of human rights in Russian prisons. Russian imprisonment remains elusive to prisons scholars and ethnographers around the world. Moreover, on the subject of prisoners’ rights specifically, the scholarship is dominated by legal discourse. The empirical and theoretical scholarship that has developed over the last twenty years has argued that Russian imprisonment is exceptional in the study of world penal systems with the research seeking to gain a sense of this exceptionality through looking at the inertial legacies of Gulag penal culture on present day punishment forms. This article attempts to challenge this claim and will argue that specifically in the area of human rights, Russia has followed a not dissimilar carceral formation to Western prisons. Through an interrogation of the cultural, political and historical factors underpinning how rights are framed in Russian prisons the article suggests that human rights are operationalised as a lever for legal and penal control. This is a significant new finding in the study of Russian imprisonment because of the questions that arise around penal resilience, how rights and penal power develop through discourse and how global penal norms converge across jurisdictions.