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Russia law allowing house arrest to reduce prison population takes effect

[JURIST] A Russian law allowing minor offenders to serve their sentences under house arrest rather than in prison entered into force on Sunday. The bill, approved [Moscow Times report] by the Russian State Duma [official website; in Russian] last month and signed [RIA Novosti report] by President Dmitri Medvedev [official profile], is aimed at reducing the number of inmates in Russia's overcrowded prison system. Individuals charged with minor offenses will be able to serve between two months and four years confined in their homes, while courts will be allowed to utilize house arrest as part of a defendant's probationary period. Individuals sentenced to house arrest will be monitored by electronic bracelets with GPS tracking devices. Among other restrictions, those convicted will have to notify authorities before changing their place of residency or job.

Russia has the second largest prison population [list, PDF] per capita in the world, superseded only by the US, where prison overcrowding [JURIST news archive] continues to be a problem. Last month, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections [official website] said that the state will begin transferring prisoners out of state to reduce the prison population. In 2006, California also began transferring [JURIST report] prisoners out of state. California is currently under a federal court order [JURIST report] to reduce its prison population from 190 percent to 137.5 percent by 2011. In November, the California government submitted a revised plan [JURIST report] for reducing its prison population that includes revisions made possible because of legislative enactments, such as summary parole for lower-level offenses to reduce the amount of inmates re-entering the prison system for parole violations and credit-earning enhancements to reduce time served.

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