Report on the visit to the Craiova Youth Detention Centre

Wednesday - 16 April 2014
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Disclaimer Eng

• On March 14, 2014, two representatives of APADOR-CH visited the Craiova Youth Detention Center. The previous visit to the facility had taken place in October 2004, after the fire that killed three minors and seriously injured other two.

General considerations

With the coming into effect of the new law on enforcement of custodial sentences, Law no. 254/2013, Penitentiaries for Youth and Minors became Detention Centers, institutions where educative measures are enforced on minors who have committed crimes. According to the director of this facility, a Detention Center is an institution where minors are supervised in view of their re-education and it is no longer considered that they are serving a prison sentence. However, the representatives of the Association were left with the impression that the juveniles here were treated just like before and that no investments had been made to improve their daily activity schedule. The director said that reorganization was ongoing and difficulties arose from the fact that the new legislation had no enforcement regulations yet. He said that activities will multiply and improve, although he would not be able to hire new staff and no professional re-qualification was planned for the existing employees. New investments for infrastructure were not foreseen either.

Youth Detention Centers functioned under the open, semi-open and closed regimes. The novelty at this facility was that, as a result of the reorganization, a section for female juveniles was created, soon to bring in all minors females from all the penitentiaries in the country. APADOR-CH commends the fact that a special section was prepared for minor female detainees, but points out to the National Administration of Penitentiaries (henceforward ANP) that transferring all minor women from the penitentiary system to Craiova would make it difficult for them to receive parcels and be visited by their families, an important aspect for their future social reinsertion. It is important for minors to keep in touch with their families, but if they come from poorer environments, traveling all the way to the center could become unaffordable for many parents and relatives.

At the time of the visit, the Center still detained young detainees (18-21) and adults awaiting transfer to penitentiaries. According to the new law, only those who committed their crime while underage will remain at the Center.
The Center serviced the counties of Dolj, Gorj, Mehedinţi, Olt, Giurgiu, Teleorman, Argeş, Vâlcea, Arad, Timiş, Caraş Severin, Ilfov and the capital, Bucharest.

The administrative building of the facility was separated from the two detention buildings. The latter were organized into six sections for minors, youth, adults (male), infirmary and female minors. At the time of the visit, there were 402 persons detained, of whom 169 were still serving a prison sentence (26 minors, 138 youth and 5 adults), while 233 were committed to the Detention Center (59 minors, 143 youth and 31 adults). The director said that these sections were still in the process of reorganization (after the new law) pending the transfer of young detainees and adults to penitentiaries. The legal capacity of the Center was 504 persons, if the 4 sq. m/person standard was taken into account.

The director admitted that the staff employed at the medical and social/educational departments was insufficient for the new task, but claimed prioritizations were made, so that emergencies and the most serious cases received immediate attention. The facility did not have a special intervention squad, just three members of the staff trained to intervene in extreme situations, but unarmed and without wearing masks. Minors and young detainees were not handcuffed when taken to the court.

The video surveillance system consisted of a few cameras located in the yard, covering the outside fences to prevent escape attempts. The management said that the footage was stocked for 30 days and then archived on CDs. They were unable to say exactly for how long the CDs were kept.

At the time of the visit, none of the detainees went to work outside the facility and only a few helped with in-house services. The only revenues supplementing the annual budget provided by the ANP came from renting some real estate owned by the Center.

The visit to the facility

The kitchen

When the representatives of APADOR-CH arrived at the kitchen, it was clear that the area had just been cleaned, the floor scrubbed and the bars of soap in the lavatory used by detainees replaced. The officer on call admitted that “new cleaning materials had just arrived”. The representatives of the Association could only hope that this interest for hygiene was permanent, not merely caused by visitors.

The canteen was large, able to accommodate 150 people. According to the person in charge of the kitchen unit, 138 detainees served their meals here every day, in three series. The 258 detainees under closed regime had their meals in their rooms. Women had a separate canteen in their section.

Unlike in other penitentiaries we visited, the menu of the day was not displayed. The cooks said
“they don’t allow us to display the menu any longer”. It was not clear who took that decision and for what reason.

Bread was kept in a separate room, in good conditions; it was fresh and it smelled good. Every detainee received 600 grams of bread every day, a quarter in the morning, a quarter in the evening and half for lunch.

12 detainees worked at the kitchen – the only ones in the facility that actually did some work – in groups of 4, each covering one day. They had all been medically tested to that purpose. The Center employed 8 cooks, all women, working in two teams, on alternate days, and two agents, also covering alternate days.

The cold room was well stocked with pork and beef, both in carcasses and frozen in portions, by category. The meat was provided by the farm of the Craiova Penitentiary, Pelendava, the management said. The storage room was filled with stocks of eggs (3,000), barrels of cheese, pasta, margarine and marmalade.

Beans soup with pork scraps and pasta with meat and sauce were being prepared for lunch. Unlike the abundance of meat in the cold room, meat in the food looked pretty scarce on that day. The evening menu included vegetable stew with pork scraps and semolina caramel pudding.

For breakfast, detainees had received tea, biscuits, cheese and margarine. One of the cooks said that minors received one egg twice or three times a week and, sometimes, an apple, but this information could not be confirmed by any of the detainees who talked to the representatives of the Association. For diet and Muslim detainees, green bean soup and beef with boiled potatoes were cooked separately.

According to the records, the food supplies used for the day were: 24 kilos of biscuits, 15 kilos of cheese, 900 grams of beef, 24 kilos of pork, 16 kilos of onions, 104 kilos of potatoes.

The kitchen was well ventilated and there was no steam, although it was cooking time. The lavatories for the staff and for detainees were separate, clean and well maintained. The whole kitchen area smelled of disinfectant. The unit also had a patisserie laboratory, but it was not used.

The school

The penitentiary had its own school, a separate unit under the administration of the County School Inspectorate that provided courses for grades 1-11. For high-school grades (9-11), professional qualification courses were provided.

At the time of the visit, no representative of the school was present, so all information about school activities came from the chief of the social and educational department.

For the current school year, there were 11 students in first grade, 10 in the second grade, 6 in the third grade, 8 in the fourth grade, two classes of 17 students for the fifth grade, two classes of 16 students for the sixth grade, two classes of 12 students for the seventh grade one class of 16 students for the eighth grade; in the ninth grade, there were 8 students in the “woodwork” class and 8 in the “mechanics” class, in the tenth grade there were 6 students in the “woodwork” class and 6 in “mechanics” and in the eleventh there were only 8 students learning woodworks. In total, at the time of the visit there were 131 registered students who had promoted the first semester.

The chief of the social/educational department explained that when detainees were brought to the Center after the beginning of the school year, they could only attend classes, without being graded or credited. According to the same source, in the current school year there were only 2-3 students who accepted to attend classes under these conditions but soon lost interest. It is obvious that this system does not work and that the minors need to be stimulated to attend school. That is why APADOR-CH asks the management of the Center to speed up the procedures for obtaining the school records of new arrivals, so they can be officially registered for school; at the same time, even as attendees they could be allowed to receive credits or other benefits such as taking part in outings.

The school occupied two floors of a large, well maintained building, with 8 classes, offices for the teachers and a generous library. The school schedule was 8:00 – 11:45 for the primary grades and 14:00 – 17:00 for gymnasium and high school years.

The chief of the social/educational department said that a class needed to have at least 8 pupils ad at most 12. However, it was appreciated as a positive fact that efforts were made to keep classes with even less than 8 students; in other former Minors and Youth Penitentiaries recently visited by APADOR-CH, the minimum number was just an excuse to deprive the juveniles from their education. However, the Association considers that, in the case of the Craiova Youth Detention Center, a number of 131 students in a population of 402 detainees is a very low figure and recommends that, after reorganization, when only minors are left here, the necessary steps be taken so that all minors go to school. The Association reminds that in Romania education is compulsory up to the 10th grade, and this should also be true for minors in detention centers.

The social/educational department

Apart from school classes, detainees at the center had other three types of activities:
• Educational programs like Life behind Bars, Education for Health, Civic Education, Universe of Knowledge etc.
• Programs for detainees in quarantine – adaptation to detention conditions;
• Education through sport – activities in the gym and on the sports field, under the supervision of the two sport instructors;

At the time of the visit, 6 minors were rehearsing a future performance at the club of the Center. The minors were part of a performing group who sang, recited and played short sketches.

There were no qualification courses going on at the time of the visit. The management had announced a carpentry workshop starting from March 24, with 28 detainees. The previous course had been completed in August 2013, for IT and computer initiation, and it had produced 60 graduates. The management said there had been no co-operation with the County Labor Agency for qualification courses since 2011. The condition for a detainee to register for a qualification course was to have gone at least through primary education and to have at most 9 months until release.

With Austrian funding, the staff of the center had the opportunity of visiting penitentiaries in Austria in 2010 and 2011 and learning about their practices. With their support, three workshops were created at the Craiova Center: a printing house, a cooking/patisserie lab and a wrought-iron smithy, as well as the sports and fitness halls. The workshops had only produced goods for the penitentiary system and, by the time of the visit, they had stopped producing altogether. The management explained that it was difficult to find orders on the local market. However, the Association recommends that the workshops should at least be used for qualification until selling orders can be found.

A psycho-social counseling program was organized with the Drug Prevention, Assessment and Counseling Center in Dolj (CEPCA) for the benefit of former drug-users.

The social/educational department had 26 employees, of whom 21 educators, 2 sports monitors, one psychologist, one social worker and the director. The management said that the staff was insufficient for the Center. The representatives of APADOR-CH consider that the department had enough personnel to organize constant activities that could involve all the minors in a few useful programs every year.

Each educator had to run at least two programs per week, with most programs lasting for at least 12 weekly sessions in groups of maximum 12 detainees. Some of the programs lasted for only 3-4 sessions. Everything seemed well organized so that each detainee could enlist for 2-3 such educational programs each year.

As a reward for their activity, minors accumulated credits that were taken into account by the parole board. For misdemeanors, credits were deduced or detainees were sanctioned by warnings, suspension of the right to shopping, suspension of the parcels or even confinement, from 4 hours to 10 days. There was no dedicated confinement room, but the sanctioned minor was placed alone in a room, although he was allowed to attend classes if he was registered in school. The management said that misdemeanors were mainly age-related, and consisted of bickering with room mates or fighting, but that confinement was rarely used. The representatives of the Association noted that detainees – both minors and young men – spent too much time in their rooms instead of being involved in school or other formative activities, and that violence was amplified by the lack of activity.

The facility had a very large sports field, equipped for football and basketball, as well as generous exercise yards. At the time of the visit, the field was occupied by young men playing football. Detainees had access to the field and exercise yards according to a schedule, by sections.

The facility also had a chapel where an orthodox priest officiated mass. Detainees of other denominations could be visited by priests upon request.

The medical office

The facility had both a medical office and a dental practice. The dentist worked by himself, without an assistant, for 7 hours a day, from 8.00 to 15.00. He said that medical supplies were insufficient, that the Center had ceased its contract with the Health Insurance Agency and now he had to ask the facility for any materials he needed to purchase. The medical instruments he used looked old, degraded and underperforming. The dentist said he generally solved only simple problems like extractions, emergencies, superficial cavities and manual removal of the plaque. Over the last weeks, he had seen two cases of jaw fracture after fights among detainees. The young men who fought were taken for surgery at the Craiova Hospital and were then moved into separate rooms.

The medical office employed a GP and an internist who covered the morning and afternoon shifts. The 24/7 care was provided by nurses. The GP was on call at the time of the visit. The staff included 6 nurses and a pharmacy assistant, but the personnel scheme had other 3 vacant positions for nurses.

The doctor said that 40-70 patients were examined every day. The most frequent problem at the time were respiratory infections (the doctor himself had a cold), a seasonal condition. Otherwise, hepatitis and hypertension were frequent and 90 detainees had been diagnosed with mental conditions, 23 being under treatment prescribed by psychiatrists at the Craiova, Colibaşi or Jilava Penitentiaries. A psychiatrist from the Craiova Penitentiary came to the Center every month to check on the patients.

One of the patients at the infirmary, transferred here for a short period for a court trial, was HIV positive and continued his treatment. The Center did not run a detoxification program for former drug addicts because, the management said, they only arrived here after being treated for addiction at one of the penitentiary hospitals in the country.

Condoms were not freely distributed at the Center. As the matrimonial room was occupied at the time of the visit, it could not be verified if condoms were distributed at least there. The doctor said there was no money to purchase condoms. The medical office chiefs complained that medical supplies were also insufficient and for more complex cases they had to be sent to civilian hospitals. The Association recommends to the management to allot sufficient funds for medication and condoms, given the fact that detainees are minors and young men and treating their health issues should be a priority.

The two infirmary rooms had damp walls; detainees had their meals brought to them. One of the patients was a minor. He was supposed to be in the 10th grade, according to him, but did not go to school because he had no school record.

Contacts with the outside /visitation

The management estimated that 70% of the minors were visited by their families, while the rest either did not have anyone, or had their families working abroad.

Payphones, the mail box and info-kiosks were accessible for all inmates, on the corridors or at the entrance to each section.

Upon release, the usual practice was for the Center to inform the family and, for those who could not afford it, pay the transportation fare home.

Detention rooms had TV sets, some brought in by detainees, other provided by the Center. TV signal was cut off every night at 22.00.

The visitation sector was appropriately set and equipped and parcels could be inspected by both the visitor and the receiving detainee at the same time. A parcel could contain maximum 10 kilos of food, 6 kilos of fresh fruit and vegetables and 20 liters of water/juice. Visits took place around the table, but the separated cabins used by the maximum security detainees were still available. APADOR-CH recommends that separated cabins should be removed as soon as transfers are completed and that tables be placed instead, so that minors can see their families only in open visits.

On the day of the visit, the liaison judge and the clerk were not present at the Center. According to the management, they also worked with other two penitentiaries. During the discussions, detainees were skeptical about the help they could get from the liaison judge and many of them said they didn’t know what he did. Member of the management who talked to the Association could not offer any information about the activity of the judge.

The shop

The in-house shop was by about 30% more expensive than local shops. In general, it was not so well stocked, signaling that it did not have a lot of traffic – probably minors had little money for shopping. There were no fresh fruit or vegetables on sale; the shop manager said those were only brought in upon request and added that a committee regularly checked on the prices, with the last verification just a week before. Shopping was scheduled once a week and detainees could spend at most one minimum wage per month.

Detention spaces

Detention rooms were located in two similar buildings, with two floors each, with 48 rooms for male detainees, 9 for female detainees and 3 for the infirmary. There were two types of rooms: small – at 31 sq. m and large – 78 sq. m. Each building had three sections, one on each level. At the time of the visit, they were only temporarily organized, so there were rooms with more detainees than beds and rooms with a lot of space and just one or two occupants.

Detainees were provided with hot running water twice a week. Each section had a common shower room. Detention building had no alarm system, therefore no matter what problem they had, detainees could only knock at the door until the agents heard them.

Building 1

Section 1 was on the ground floor and held minors under closed and open regime. The rooms were relatively clean, although the lavatories were less than hygienic. Detainees admitted that the management had announced them since morning that inspection was coming to the Center and rooms needed to be clean. Most rooms had improvised electric installations, like TV sets plugged in by un-insulated or socket-less wires. In some rooms, there were more detainees than beds, like in Room 1.11, of 1 sq. m, where 4 detainees shared 3 beds. The management said the situation was only temporary, being caused by the reorganization of the institution, and was going to end with the transfer of all young and adult detainees.

Room 1.3, open regime, 78 sq. m, held 10 minors in 12 beds. The occupants of the room claimed that in the summer of 2013 no less than 18 of them had to share the same 12 beds. The detainees said that doors stayed open from 8.00 to 12.00 and from 14.00 to 17.00 and that hot running water was provided twice a week (on Mondays and Thursdays). Asked how they appreciated their food, detainees said it was acceptable but they didn’t recall receiving any fresh fruit or vegetables since the previous summer. Some of them claimed that the guards had an aggressive attitude, beating and insulting the minors “when they didn’t behave”. In order to comply with the legal detention conditions for the open and semi-open regimes, the Association recommends that the doors of the rooms be left open throughout the day, to allow detainees to move freely on the corridors and to the exercise yards.

Room 1.6, a large room for detainees serving under closed regime, held 11 detainees in 10 beds. The minors complained about the bedbugs that gave them skin rashes, which they claimed were not properly treated. Most detainees showed bite marks on their legs and other visible skin conditions. The walls of the room were dirty, bearing traces of the bedbugs squashed by detainees. The mattresses here and everywhere else in the Center were old, dirty and lumpy, a perfect environment for the insects to flourish. Detainees said this has been the situation for over a year. They also complained that they were not taken to see the doctor and they had never seen the liaison judge. Three of them said they could not attend school because their school records were not available. They went to the gym once a week and spent all the rest of their time in their room, watching TV.

Section 2, located on the first floor, held young detainees under the open and closed regimes. Room 2.4 held 6 detainees in 13 beds. One of them said he had been at the center for one year and had never attended school. None of the occupants of the room knew they could attend classes even if they were not registered and graded. They all claimed they were frequently hit by the guards “if they did something wrong”, but admitted they had never complained about it because they didn’t think anyone would believe them or that the management would actually do anything about it.

Section 3, located on the second floor, held young men under the maximum security regime. Room E 3.4 held one detainee categorized as high risk because he had attempted to escape. The room had 6 beds and measured about 30 sq. m. Only two of the beds had mattresses. The young man said he had no activities other than one hour of daily exercise and watching TV.

Room 3.5 – young detainees under maximum security regime – held 2 detainees in six beds on about 30 sq. m. They complained of bedbugs and said they didn’t receive any chemicals for pest control.

The women’s section was organized on the upper floor and held 8 female minors – 7 under open regime and one under semi-open regime. None of the girls went to school because the management said, no solution was found to keep them separated from the boys during classes. At the time of the visit, three of the detainees were on an educational course with an educator, decorating a club. The management said they intended to purchase bidets for the women’s section, so they can have better hygiene conditions than male detainees. The rooms here were spacious, but mattresses were in equally poor condition.

Building 2

Minors under preventive arrest and adult detainees were held in section 4, on the ground floor of the building. Room 4.4, one of the larger, held 4 detainees in 10 beds. They complained they had bedbugs and scabies (it was not clear if they meant that their skin conditions itched like scabies or they actually believed they suffered from scabies; the medical records did not mention that diagnosis). They said the itching made them scratching the whole time and the medical office only provided them with “cheap medication, of no effect”.

On the second floor, adults on preventive arrest awaited transfer to a penitentiary. Room 6.4 held 10 detainees in 10 beds. They had no social or educational activity, just the daily exercise time and watching TV.

Conclusions and recommendations:

• Given the reorganization of the institution, it cannot be said how the activities of the future Craiova Youth Detention Center are going to look like. It is recommended, however, that this transition period be as short as possible, so that the problems noted in the report as caused by “reorganization” can be fixed.

• APADOR-CH recommends the management to pay more attention to feeding fruit/vegetables to detainees, even in winter time, because they are growing children and need a higher supply of vitamins.

• The Association recommends further efforts to involve all detainees in social and educational activities, in order to reduce the time they spend in front of the TV or in their rooms, where useless fights can start out of sheer boredom.

• APADOR-CH recommends that the ANP should have in mind filling up the personnel scheme in order to make better use of the three workshops that stay under lock while young detainees come of prison without any qualification. It would also be useful to scan the local or national market for contracts for the products made in these workshops.

• A closer co-operation between the management of the Center and that of the school could help stimulate minors to go to school, even if they do not have their school records. Other Youth Detention Centers managed to test the students and assess their level of knowledge, then place them in appropriate classes to attend the lessons even without school records.

• The management should verify the accusations of aggressive behavior made by some minors against the guards.

• Higher preoccupation is required for the sanitary conditions of rooms and beds. This should not be left up to the minors, who clearly do not know enough about personal hygiene. The aim is to eliminate the bedbugs and the skin conditions. The management is under obligation (and not just in this Detention Center) to ensure efficient pest control, perhaps with professional help.

Dollores Benezic Doina-Adelina Boboşatu