On November 22, 2013, two representatives of APADOR-CH visited the Center for Preventive Arrest and Detention (CPAD) in Constanţa County. The previous visit to this facility had taken place in 2009.
The representatives of the Association noted that one of the most serious problems found during their previous visit had still not been addressed. More precisely, APADOR-CH noted that video surveillance cameras were still installed and functioning in every room of the police custody facility. The Association reminds that such a measure is a serious violation of the right to private life for persons held in detention or on preventive arrest. Video cameras may be installed on the corridors and even should be installed in investigation rooms, but under no circumstances may they be placed in detention rooms, lavatories or medical offices. It must be said that each room at the Constanţa CPAD had an alert system, so it could not be argued that surveillance cameras were necessary to ensure the physical “security” of detainees. Nor could it be argued that they compensated for the lack of personnel, since the facility had 31 employees.
The persons in charge said that video surveillance was off in women’s rooms. At the time of the visit, only one woman was detained at CPAD Constanța, in a two bed room. Indeed, the monitors showed no images from that particular room, only carrying the message VIDEO LOST. However, there was no certainty that the respective camera was permanently deactivated. APADOR-CH asks the General Police Inspectorate to immediately and definitively cease the permanent video surveillance of detention rooms by taking away all cameras. Whatever the legal grounds for installing the cameras, they represent a flagrant violation of ECHR standards regarding the right to private life and therefore can be considered degrading treatment.
1. Population, detention spaces, sanitary conditions, food
On the day of the visit, the facility held 45 detainees, of whom 36 adult males, 8 minors and one female. Five of them were convicted, while the rest were on preventive arrest. CPAD Constanța had 13 detention rooms totaling about 180 sq. m, including the lavatory
(a toilet cabin, a sink and a shower). The facility also had a supervisors’ club, a medical office, a detainees’ club (a former detention room with a TV set), a search room and a storage room where kitchenware was kept.
The facility was located in the semi-basement. The thick bars on the small windows did not allow for enough natural light or ventilation. As a result, the walls already looked moldy although they were last whitewashed in 2012. The lavatories were in a very bad state. CPAD Constanța had a constant supply of cold and hot water, just like the rest of the Police Inspectorate building, so that detainees could have a hot shower at all times and rooms were sufficiently heated.
The facility did only provide a bed, pillow, blanket and sheets. All other necessary sanitary items – soap, toothpaste, shaving cream, toilet paper and detergent – were either brought in by detainees with the rest of their personal belongings, provided by their families or purchased by detainees. In that respect, one practice had improved from the previous visit: supervisors at CPAD Constanţa now helped detainees purchase the goods they needed. Another positive aspect worth mentioning was that food was still prepared in a small kitchen by two employees of the Police Inspectorate. The kitchen and storage were very clean and rather well equipped. On the day of the visit, the menu included vegetable soup and pork with beans. The food and the bread awaiting distribution looked and smelled good.
- Medical care
Three doctors and two nurses attended to the detainees. According to the doctor on duty at the time of the visit, the medical staff provided 24/7 presence and the necessary medication was available. The staff said there had been no problems of drug abuse, only cases of acute alcoholic intoxication – when arrest was usually denied and the suspect was sent to a hospital. If a person brought into the facility complained of being brutalized, the doctor in charge of the examination made a mention in the medical record and notified the prosecutor. The most frequent conditions of arrestees were mental disorders, cardio-vascular problems and respiratory infections. There was no ongoing HIV/hepatitis prevention program (more precisely, no condoms were distributed and no methadone substitution treatment was available). The only female detainee at CPAD Constanța was pregnant at the time of the visit. She was regularly seen by a gynecologist at a civilian hospital (the detainee confirmed and said she was happy about the way she was treated).
Detainees had the right to go on a hour-long walk every day They could use the three exercise yards, which were small and partly covered, but had no equipment whatsoever, so that the only activity was to walk a few steps to and fro. APADOR-CH asks the Police Inspectorate once again to install some simple equipment (like fixed bars) in the yards, in order to allow detainees to get some exercise.
As an improvement from the previous visit, rooms were now equipped with TVs that detainees were allowed to watch at all times. A club-room also existed, but no activities were organized there, so detainees preferred to sit in their rooms.
- Correspondence and visitation
In what concerns the violation of the right to confidentiality, the situation at CPAD Constanța had remained unchanged since the previous visit. All mail – both incoming and outgoing – was registered. If the registration of incoming mail could be justified as a proof that the letters were actually delivered to detainees, there was no justification for registering sent mail. APADOR-CH asks the Police Inspectorate to take steps to put an end to this procedure.
The payphone used by detainees was located in the supervisors’ office, with the former being present during the conversations. The office was small, so it was impossible for supervisors not to hear everything detainees said. APADOR-CH recommends that a phone booth should be installed in a different location, allowing detainees to hold their conversations in full confidentiality.
The visitation sector, located outside the facility, consisted of one room (also under video surveillance) equipped with 6 separated cabins and one table for the meetings with the lawyers. The Association requires assurances that the encounters between minors and their families took place around a table.
- Discussions with detainees
Room 10 (18 sq. m/10 beds installed) held six adult males who declared that the food was very good and that the staff behaved properly. They complained about the dim light and the lack of activity, which made them somnolent, sometimes unable to realize if it was day or night time. Three of the arrestees were actually asleep during the visit, around 11 a.m.
Five of the minors stayed in Room 6 (about 15 sq. m/5 beds installed). One of them showed clear signs that he had not been able to adapt to the prison environment (his voice was shaking, he seemed ready to burst into tears). Another minor, who had been held at CPAD Constanța for 10 months because he had no ID papers, was eager to be moved to a penitentiary to serve his time (he was already convicted). APADOR-CH points out that minors are a vulnerable category and asks the chiefs of the facility to provide psychological counselling and social/educational activities.
The only female detainee was in her third semester of pregnancy and occupied the room closest to the supervisor’s office – a six-bed room of about 12 sq. m. APADOR-CH recommends that part of the unused beds should be removed, to ensure minimum space to move around. The woman had one complaint: that the toilet was insalubrious.
- APADOR-CH asks for the surveillance cameras to be removed from detention rooms. Their presence indicates a clear violation of the right to private life, which needs to be observed even in the case of persons who are deprived of freedom;
- The Association asks for immediate steps to be taken in order to observe the right to confidentiality of mail and phone conversations;
- The sanitization of lavatories must be completed with celerity.
Other conclusions and recommendations have been included in the report.
Maria-Nicoleta Andreescu Dollores Benezic