But the colony is known for strict enforcement of rules and for making extensive use of a separate, harsher, punishment facility within its walls where inmates are not allowed to mingle or even talk among themselves, according to former inmates and lawyers.
The site is typical for Russia’s colony-type prisons that evolved, with a few improvements, from the gulag camps established in the 1930s. Inmates live collectively in groups of several dozen called brigades in low slung, two-story buildings surrounded by walls and barbed wire.
While guards oversee the prison, fellow prisoners maintain discipline within the brigades, either in cooperation with guards, a group known as “activists,” or as criminal gang leaders, known as “thieves in law.”
Penal Colony No. 2 is controlled by “activists” in cahoots with the warden, according to former inmates, an arrangement that will allow the prison administration to strictly control Mr. Navalny’s life at all times. Activist-controlled prisons are called “red zone” facilities, in Russian prison parlance.
Penal Colony No. 2 is, “the reddest of red” prisons, a lawyer, Maria Eismont, who represented a former convict at the site, told Open Media, an opposition news site.
“Everything is done so a person feels his total dependence” on the warden, she said. Inmates are even denied prompt visits from lawyers, which is technically illegal, she said. “Everything is done to isolate political prisoners.”
Dmitri Dyomushkin, a nationalist politician who served time in the colony, described conditions in the separate punishment brigade, where Mr. Navalny could wind up for infractions as minor as failing to button his jacket, as psychologically harrowing.