Armenian prisons were once run by a criminal brotherhood known as “Thieves in Law.” They vehemently rejected state authority and lived by their own code, controlling the prison and drug trade, and smuggling. The leaders of the Thieves in Law were unknown, yet their power was immense.
We learn about Georgian Avangyan, who found trouble with the Thieves in Law. Georg was repeatedly caught with smuggled goods in his cell. This time around, he was found with a kitchen knife. Georg had himself voluntarily locked in a single cell out of fear of the brotherhood’s power. The Thieves in Law had a message to send to his co-inmates: teach the repeat offender a lesson.
For Arsen Artstruni, who ordered a double murder as a terrorist in the 1990s, punishment was converted from death sentence to life in prison. He has remained confined for over 20 years with little hope of release. Despite this bleak existence, Arsen holds onto hope and is the first Armenian prisoner with a university degree in psychology.
Today, the Armenian prison system implements dedicated cell blocks to curtail the Thieves In Law’s influence. A new documentary encapsulates the struggles and lives of those incarcerated in the Armenian Prison System. If you’re looking for an eye-opening view into Armenia’s past and how it has impacted the present-day prison system, watch “The Armenian Prison System: Power and Survival” today.