Report on the visit of the Miercurea Ciuc Closed Regime Penitentiary

Monday - 8 July 2019
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On April 1st, 2019, two APADOR-CH representatives visited the Closed Regime Penitentiary in Miercurea Ciuc. This was the first visit to this penitentiary.

General information, staff, detention areas

The Miercurea Ciuc Penitentiary is one of the cleanest and well-maintained penitentiaries in the country, but a penitentiary where the issue of overcrowding is far from being solved.

On the date of our visit, this penitentiary held 278 inmates (all adult males) although it has a maximum capacity of 206. Furthermore, the penitentiary also has 37 places on the prison farm, but only 6 detainees were housed there. The prison director estimated that the occupancy rate of the penitentiary is currently at 132%, considering the 4 sqm/detainee ratio. However, in the prison population has decreased in the past years (e.g. at the end of 2018 the number of detainees was 304).

The penitentiary holds 35 rooms and 3 wings. The rooms have different sizes, ranging from 8.10 sqm (section 2) to 38.61 sqm (section 3). According to official documents, the total surface area of the detainment areas (bathrooms included) was 728.65 sqm. Thus, there were only 2.62 sqm for each inmate.

The prison director also stated that the only solution to overcrowding was the reduction of detainees (more outgoing detainees than incoming), which they don’t expect to happen any time soon. In addition, the director stated that due to the detainment conditions, all detainees benefit from a reduced sentence. According to the penitentiary’s annual report for 2018, 19 detainees have been released by Law No. 169/2017, by a recalculation of the remainder of their sentence.

The Miercurea Ciuc penitentiary can’t be extended, and there is no room for new detention facilities. The November 2018 audit of the Prison Inspection Authority concluded that, since the penitentiary is in a protected area for historical monuments, it would need a building permit for current maintenance repair works. Thus, under the Romanian building code, a formal complaint was filed by the Prosecutor’s Office for changing the roof tiles of pavilion 1 without a building permit.

Regarding the personnel, only 173 positions were filled out of 233. For example, there is a need for 1 deputy director, 2 psychologists, 4 social workers, 4 educational officers and 1 chief general practitioner. The position of chief general practitioner has been open since 2017, but nobody applied. The penitentiary’s representatives admitted that they also need a psychiatrist considering a large number of detainees suffer from mental health issues. The position of catholic priest is vacant since 2012, but a representative of the Catholic Church visits the penitentiary on a regular basis.  Section 3 also hosts a chapel served by an Orthodox priest, employed by the Romanian National Prison administration. Some detainees the APADOR -CH representatives, talked to, said that there are no activities at the chapel.

Current maintenance works, investments

According to the data provided by the prison representatives, only regular maintenance works were carried out in 2018 and 2019. These included repainting of the walls, repairs of the installations, repairs of the doors and windows of 25 detention rooms (22 onsite and 3 of the prison farm unit, visitor’s waiting room, supervision outposts 1 and 3, regular outposts, kitchen for the officers and detainees, food storage). Furthermore, the panels on the prison farm were partially replaced, as well as the roof. Also, in 2018 the penitentiary purchased an ambulance for the transportation of the penitentiary.

The prison director expressed his regret that they weren’t able to build the treatment plant for the prison farm for with 100 k Lei were allotted in 2018. This was mainly due to the fact that they couldn’t work together with the company SC IGUT SRL Brasov, the initial technical planner of the objective in 2003.

Workplaces for the detainees

In 2018 the penitentiary continued its collaboration with SC Rilug SRL for shoe sewing. According to the data in the annual report, 53 detainees worked for this contract. However, on March 31, 2019, the company went into liquidation; thus, the collaboration ended. As a matter of fact, over recent years the number of companies asking for prison labour has significantly decreased since the area of the Miercurea Ciuc has limited industrial and agricultural potential; together with the lack of personnel who could ensure the security for the lucrative facility and last but not least the lack of detainees under open regime.

The food preparation area

The food preparation area is very well maintained and spotless. The pressure cookers date back since 2012 and still are in pristine condition. Six detainees help out in the kitchen, and the place is analysed twice a year. On the day of our visit, the lunch menu consisted of potato stew, sour vegetable soup, bean soup and cabbage stew, and pasta with cheese (for the detainees with special dietary requirements). According to the data provided to our association a part of the food for 2018 was obtained from the prison farm (which has 40 cows), thus covering the necessary beef, milk and cheese for the prison. Moreover, 30% of all potatoes, courgettes and herbs came were produced in-house.

During our visit, the detainees stated that they have the right to shop at the prison store, nut the prices were quite high (roughly 30% higher than prices on the outside).

Medical assistance

The most alarming aspect of our visit was the lack of a hired general practitioner for the facility. The nurse on Section 1 said that the position is open since 2014 after the last doctor resigned. Thus, the medical assistance in the penitentiary is ensured by 7 trained nurses, guided by the general practitioner of the Satu Mare Penitentiary (who consults on chronic illnesses and comes when needed). The trained nurses work in 12/24, 12/48 shifts, and they make their best efforts to maintain the quality of the healthcare provided.

Until 11 AM, when the association’s representatives interviewed the trained nurse on-site, had already offered 38 consults (with a daily average of 40-50). The most common conditions are cardiac conditions and mental health issues (almost 30% of all detainees suffer from mental health issues). There were no registered HIV positive detainees or addicts. There were 3 cases of viral hepatitis A in 2018. Emergency care is ensured by the Miercurea Ciuc County Hospital, and all hospital admissions are made at the Dej Penitentiary Hospital. There have been no recorded deaths in the past 5 years.

The trained nurse complained about the high responsibility they have, considering that there is no doctor on-premises. The nurse also mentioned that many of his colleagues will retire soon, and then there will be only 3 trained nurses left he declared that “if we are down to 3 nurses, I’ll leave too, my only advantage is my eligibility for early retirement, if this is revoked then we’ll all leave the ”. The penitentiary director admitted that ensuring medical assistance is one of the most significant issues and that they have no idea of what will happen in 6 months.

APADOR -CH recommends that the Miercurea Ciuc Penitentiary director takes all necessary urgent measures to solve the issue of the missing permanent general practitioner. Furthermore, considering that some trained nurses will retire soon, the management must already come up with a plan to replace them, to avoid a potential staffing crisis.

Education and psychological assistance

At the moment of our visit, the class for primary school level Romanian had just ended to which 6 detainees had taken part of. The penitentiary has two classrooms (one for classes taught in Romanian and one for classes taught in Hungarian). 2018 saw a continuation of the efforts made to identify the educational needs of the detainees; in the school year of 2017-2018 28 detainees were enrolled in primary school, 15 in secondary school, thus a total of 43 detainees. The 2018-2019 school year saw 23 enrolled in primary school and 30 in secondary school, totalling up to 53 detainees.

The penitentiary’s library received a donation of 500 books from the Dexton Bucharest publishing house.

The judge for the supervision of the deprivation of liberty

The judge for the supervision of the deprivation of liberty was not at the penitentiary at the time of our visit. According to the information provided by the prison director, 96 complaints referring to the breach of rights of detainees had been filed in 2018. There was no situation in which the competent courts or the judge for the supervision of the deprivation of liberty ascertained that the prison administration had not breached any prisoner’s rights. Only in one instance, the court disposed that the penitentiary reconsiders their decision on a detainee’s petition to add a new phone number to the pre-defined list.

Visit of the individual sections

Section 3

Section 3 hosts 114 detainees in 12 rooms. Three of these rooms are set up for the detainees who work. There are 11 showers on the section’s ground floor, 9 of which were fully functional at the time of our visit. The detainees may shower twice a week, for maximum of 10 minutes. Our representatives noticed that the bathrooms were mouldy, and the ventilation system was out of order. According to the prison director, they were currently working at a feasibility study to establish whether they could fit in showers in the rooms. Until then, APADOR-CH recommends that the existing showers and ventilation systems are repaired. It is true that in-room showers are the best solution, especially considering that some detainees complained that they have to go to the first floor to shower, which can cause a lot of health issues (especially dental issues), especially in winter.

Room E 3.12

Room E 3.12 has a surface of 28.20 sqm and a legal capacity of 7 persons. At the moment of our visit, the room housed 16 detainees and had 18 beds. Thus, there are only 1.56 sqm for each detainee, way below the 4 sqm standard.

The persons detained in this room complained about the following: a) missing bed ladders for, thus getting to the bed on top was quite difficult, b) that the food was quite bad as it had too much flour in it, c) that the courtyards were too small and that the time they spend outside is minimal (2, 3 hours), d) that the soap they received was of subpar quality, e) the fact that the penitentiary does not provide envelopes and stamps and f) about the fact that they would like to work “even if they don’t receive any payment for it”.

Our representatives were able to observe the 6 courtyards of the penitentiary, all fitted with toilets, telephone and tables.

To avoid any accidents, APADOR -CH recommends that the penitentiary takes measures to install bed ladders for the bunk beds. Furthermore, the Miercurea Ciuc Penitentiary must respect the rights of detainees to hold correspondence by providing stamps and envelopes. Moreover, the detainees should have more access to information regarding their rights during detainment by posting this information in visible places (such as rooms and visitation rooms).

Section 3 also has a barbershop which looked quite unkempt at the time of our visit. Its bathroom had a drainage problem. According to the annual report for 2018, the Miercurea Ciuc Penitentiary considered the idea of offering barber training. However, this idea was not implemented due to several factors such as missing trainer, lack of space and lack of interest from the detainees. In addition, several meetings between potential employers and detainees were held, and 3 companies decided to accept applications based on the CV of the detainees. APADOR-CH strongly recommends that the Miercurea Ciuc Penitentiary intensifies their efforts to offer vocational training to the detainees, so they have a real chance at reintegration after their release.

Section 2

The 2 inmates detained in Room E 3.12 described it as “like a coffin”. The surface of this room is 10.43 sqm, and its legal capacity is 2. The detainees complained that their right of information is breached because rollcalls are during 7 and 8 PM, coinciding with the most important newscasts of the day. Furthermore, they complained about the fact that the penitentiary doesn’t provide them with laundry detergent.

Room E 2.3 has a surface of 26.40 sqm and a legal capacity of 6 persons. At the moment of our visit, the room housed 18 detainees and had 18 beds (3 three-tier bunk beds).  Thus, there are only 1.46 sqm for each detainee, way below the 4 sqm standard. The toilet and shower are in the same room. The detainees didn’t express any complaints on their conditions of detention, maybe because the penitentiary’s representatives were present. Considering that the penitentiary was a closed regime penitentiary, confidential discussions were not possible.

Room E 2.2 is tiny and has a surface of 13.93 sqm and a legal capacity of 3 persons. It housed 4 detainees at the moment of our visit and had 6 beds.  Thus, there are only 3.4 sqm for each detainee, way below the 4 sqm standard.

According to the penitentiary representatives, the solitary confinement room (the only one in the penitentiary) had only been used once in 2018. This room has a toilet and sink and is usually used as a waiting room (for 1 – 2 hours at most). The quarantine room is also barely used; it had a two-year-old mattress and a ventilation system in place.

The room for conjugal visits from Section 2 was also clean and adequately fitted with refrigerator, TV, shower and toilet. This section of the penitentiary also holds a workshop where detainees can repair their clothing items (fitted with a sewing machine) or do metalworking or paint jobs.

Section 1

At the time of our visit room, E 1.14 housed 2 persons held under maximum security. The surface of this room is 8.10 sqm, and its legal capacity is 2.

The surface of room E 1.20 is 26.80 sqm, and its legal capacity is 6. It housed 7 detainees at the time of our visit.

Section 1 also contained 8 detainees under semi-open regime who were due to be transferred. The doors to the rooms were closed, and the penitentiary’s representatives admitted that due to the high fluctuation of the prisoners, they couldn’t provide a room for the detainees under semi-open regime. The Association recommends that the prison takes all the necessary measures to ensure that the detainees under semi-open regime have a room fitting their regime, regardless of their time spent in the Miercurea Ciuc Penitentiary.

All the rooms we visited had a TV. The video-conferencing room is fully functional but rarely used because there were no requests from the courts to do so. It is used from time to time for video conferences with the Romanian National Prison Administration.

Concluding remarks and recommendations

The Miercurea Ciuc Penitentiary is one of the cleanest and well-maintained penitentiaries in the country. However, it has two main issues: overcrowding and the absence (since 2014) of a general practitioner to ensure permanent medical assistance.

APADOR -CH recommends that:

  • The penitentiary takes all the necessary measures to solve overcrowding, including a medium- and long-term plan, considering that the area where the penitentiary is built doesn’t allow the extension or construction of a new penitentiary. It is vital that the penitentiary continues its collaboration with the Romanian National Prison Administration.

 

  • Furthermore, the penitentiary must take immediate measures to solve the issue of not having a general practitioner permanent on-site. Furthermore, considering that some trained nurses will retire soon, the management must already come up with a plan to replace them, to avoid a potential staffing crisis.

 

 

Georgiana Gheorghe

Nicoleta Popescu

Traducere Cristina Badea Guțu