Pussy Riot Is Heading to a Horrible Russian Prison Colony

The Atlantic
Pussy Riot Is Heading to a Horrible Russian Prison Colony
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Pussy Riot Is Heading to a Horrible Russian Prison Colony

The new two members of the band Pussy Riot who remain behind bars lost an appeal to serve out the length of their two-year sentences at a Moscow pre-trial detention center on Monday. The alternative, unfortunately, is not a good one. Pending any last ditch appeals, Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova will spend the next two years of their lives in a dreadful-sounding Russian prison colony, all for a dancing on an altar.

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The conditions sound undesirable to say the least. Well, the Associated Press painted a pretty ugly picture of the places, anyways. "In colonies for women, inmates live in barracks with 30 to 40 to a room," explained the AP ahead of Pussy Riot's appeal. "They begin the day by shuffling outside for compulsory exercises at daybreak, in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees Celsius in winter. After roll call and a breakfast of gruel, they spend seven to eight hours a day at work, usually hunched over sewing machines working on uniforms and other clothing." If Alekhina or Tolokonnikova do so much as make a sloppy bed or greet guards appropriately, they're subject to solitary confinement for up to 15 days. 

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Gruel, manual labor and "compulsory exercises at daybreak," huh? That's not so bad. At least maybe the people will be nice? "Everyone knows the rule: Trust no one, never fear and never forgive," said Svetlana Bakhmina, a lawyer who spent three years in a penal colony. "You are in no-man's land. Nobody will help you. You have to think about everything you say and do to remain a person." The worst case scenario is very bad. In 2009, white collar criminal Sergei Magnitsky was reportedly beaten almost to death then denied medical care before he succumbed to his injuries and died in one of these prison colonies.

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Now, Alekhina and Tolokonnikova have two choices: They can hope and they can pray. More specifically, they can hope that some last minute legal maneuver could get their sentence suspended like their band mate Yekaterina Samutsevich. Or, they can pray that the next 24 months in one of those terrible-sounding prison colonies will go by quickly.

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