Overcrowding and disease are comparatively minor problems for inmates in Russia's alleged "torture prisons," where convicts are said to suffer regular beatings. Officials insist that they probe all complaints, but NPR has yielded harrowing stories from ex-inmates after four were reportedly clubbed to death this spring. "God help you," one former prisoner said, "if you end up in a Russian jail."
"Guards would take me out, handcuff me to a shower, then beat and kick me until I lost consciousness," an ex-inmate said. "Later, I'd wake up back in my cell." One advocate said that torture prisons, designed to instill fear in the general prison population, "are places where totalitarianism rules. That's why it's so important to stop it, because if it takes root, that kind of system will spread to other parts of society."