Amid a continuing debate about the dire conditions in Russian prisons and repeated cases of torture there, a top official from Russia's Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) says its workers are suffering from "moral fatigue" as a result of low wages and daily contacts with inmates who sometimes attack the guards.
Valery Maksimenko told the Interfax news agency on January 7 that more than 3,000 psychologists work in the FSIN, of whom some 350 provide prison guards and other FSIN workers with necessary professional assistance.
Maksimenko also stated that inmate attacks on prison guards is on the rise because FSIN workers hesitate to use force against inmates.
"Because after using [force against inmates], the guards must for half a year, or even for a year, answer questions by investigators, prosecutors, courts...to prove that they were right, as they may face even criminal charges," Maksimenko said.
A day earlier, Maksimenko told Interfax that the FSIN is not a legacy of the notorious Soviet-era gulag system and called such comparisons "incorrect."
"Gulag meant mass violations of human rights, mass repressions, illegal verdicts, executions, torture, forced confessions, and that cannot be said about today's situation," Maksimenko said. "If some prison guards beat inmates, that doesn't mean it is the legacy of the gulag. It means that such guards have no brains...no desire to work, no patience."
Maksimenko added that the FSIN is doing everything to get rid of such employees.
Earlier in November, Maksimenko told Ekho Moskvy radio that Russia needs more prisons to hold police officers, prison guards, and other law enforcement agents who have been convicted of crimes.
In Russia and some other former Soviet republics, former law enforcement officers serve prison terms in penitentiaries separate from common ones.
Abuse by police, prison guards, and other law enforcement officers has long been a problem in Russia.
The topic has come to the attention of the Russian public and the media in recent months after a video showing at least 17 guards beating an inmate at a prison in the city of Yaroslavl became public in July.
Fifteen guards from that prison were arrested following a public outcry. Probes were launched against several prison guards suspected of torturing or killing inmates in Russia's other regions.