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6 August, 2013 11:53   ▪  

Expert: The number of life sentences in Ukraine increased twice since 2000

Since 2000, Ukrainian courts handed out a greater-than-average number of life sentences twice, in 2002-2003 and 2007, says criminologist Dr. Hanna Maliar in a commentary for The Ukrainian Week

In Ukraine, capital punishment was replaced with life imprisonment in 2000. “The proportion of lifetime sentences in Ukraine is 0.1 per cent on average. Only twice, in 2002-2003 and 2007, did their number spike to 0.2 per cent,” Maliar says.

“Prior to 2000, the maximum punishment was death penalty. Interestingly, the proportion of death penalty sentences was 0.1 per cent in 1991-1999. In other words, we can see that there have been no changes in the way the maximum punishment is applied. A small increase in the number of lifetime prisoners coincides in time with a slightly bigger total number of registered crimes. That is, the proportion of life sentences has been the same in the past 13 years,” she adds.

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Lifelong incarceration is mostly imposed for intentional cruel murders (often several) with aggravating circumstances.

“Indeed, there are more wilful murders, and in general violent grave crimes, committed in Ukraine than in European countries. This is partly the reason why severe punishment is meted out in a greater number of cases,” Maliar says.

At the same time, international practice of applying imprisonment and death penalty has shown that the severity of criminal punishment does not affect the crime level and fails to fulfill a preventive function.

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“That is why life imprisonment (just like death penalty before) is not an extremely efficient punishment from the viewpoint of fighting crime. The state must seek ways to socialize criminals rather than simply isolate them,” the expert sums up.

Oleksandr Kyslov, chief of the Department for Protection, Oversight, Security and Control over the Execution of Court Decisions in the State Penitentiary Service, has said that Ukraine has 1,845 lifetime prisoners, while Russia 1,841. Their number increases by an average of 100 per year in Ukraine.

Maliar attributes this difference between Ukraine and Russia to two causes: the maximum imprisonment term and the categories of persons to which this punishment may be applied.

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