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General information about MCPR

Moscow Center for Prison Reform (MCPR) is a non-governmental organization founded in 1988 to promote a fair, effective and humane system of criminal justice and punishment. MCPR was founded by former political prisoners with the whole-hearted support of Andrei Sakharov, who actively cooperated with us until his death.

MCPR is seeking to solve the following tasks:

  • development of the conceptual basis and legislative proposals for the reform;
  • collection and making public human rights violations, monitoring of legal reform;
  • establishment of the system of public control over law enforcement bodies, restoration of trusteeship traditions over penitentiary institutions;
  • legal and inward enlightenment of the public.


The Center's founders knew about the inhuman conditions that reigned in Russian prisons and labor camps from personal experience and understood that the transition from totalitarianism to democracy in Russia is impossible unless the heritage of the GULAG is overcome. In 1991, the Center finished developing a program of bills and recommendations for the reform of prisons and the judicial system.

Our task was to attract the attention of mass media, society and governmental bodies to the disastrous situation of the penitentiary system. The Center has published hundreds of books, brochures, booklets, leaflets and posters and prepared more than a thousand publications and audio and video reports for mass media. Together with other non-governmental organizations, we have organized several successful publicity campaigns for the support of reform bills. in which thousands of people from different Russian regions took part. Our exhibition Man and the Prison received a lot of publicity and was presented in the State Duma and in various exhibition halls in Moscow and other cities. During 1998 2000, more than 50,000 people came to see it.

The weekly radio program Oblaka (“Clouds”), which has been broadcast on the “Russian Radio” station since 1992 and which is devoted to the problems of prisoners. plays an important role in the Center's educational work. According to surveys conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation, 25% of adults in Russia listen to this program.

At the end of 1999, the Center, in conjunction with other non-governmental organizations, began to conduct a new publicity campaign entitled “Stop the Penitentiary Chernobyl!” The deputies of the State Duma received more than 6,000 letters in which voters demanded that the bill proposed by the Ministry of Justice be adopted quickly and that prisoners who have committed minor crimes be amnestied. This manifestation led to results. On May 19, 2000, the bill of the Ministry of Justice passed its first reading in the Lower House of the Duma. On May 26, 2000, the State Duma announced an amnesty as a result of which approximately 120,000 prisoners will be released before the end of the year. Both decisions were made unanimously by the deputies.

The Moscow Center for Prison Reform also works in the domain of legal education of the population, monitors human rights and the current legislation, makes sociological surveys, etc. Over the twelve years of its existence, the Center has implemented more than 40 projects that were financed by different foundations and organizations. 

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