Report on the visit to the Slobozia Penitentiary

Thursday - 21 November 2013
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On November 21, 2013, two representatives of APADOR-CH visited the Slobozia Penitentiary, in Ialomiţa County. The previous visit to the facility had taken place in 2006.

 

1.      General considerations

The Slobozia Penitentiary held 638 detainees at the time of the visit, five of whom were underage. They were all male, most of them serving definitive sentences under various detention regimes: 5 under maximum security regime; 409 under closed regime; 35 under semi-open regime; 95 under open regime; and 25 not yet categorized. The remaining 69 detainees were on preventive arrest.

A number of 57 detainees worked outside the facility (for the Forestry Administration – in tree planting, in Cernavodă – digging, or on the local industrial platform), other 5 worked at the in-house farm and 139 closed-regime detainees provided in-house services. The prison management appreciated that 21-22% of the prison population was somehow engaged in a lucrative activity.

Detainees who worked outside the penitentiary did not receive mobile phones or money when they left the premises. The governor pointed out that the detainees were fully aware of the rights they had in that respect, but have chosen to not to make use of them. A single agent went on patrol every day in the areas where they worked, mainly to make sure that work protection rules were observed and that detainees did not get in contact with other workers who cold provide them with alcoholic beverages.

The total surface of detention rooms at the facility was 1492.17 square meters, or 1630.85 sq m if lavatories were included. The rooms, without the lavatories, had a capacity of 373 places, computed at 4 square meters of space per detainee. Since the prison held 638 detainees, it meant that each of them had 2.3 sq m of space, much under the minimum norm of 4 sq m recommended by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture. It could be therefore concluded that Slobozia Penitentiary was overcrowded.

The staff numbered a total of 146 employees on 171 existing positions. Only 13 of the 18 positions for officers and only 133 of the 153 positions for agents were occupied. The unit did not have an intervention squad, but used 9 agents in shifts of two to man special interventions. The facility had not implemented the Order of the ANP (National Administration of Penitentiaries) to equip intervention squad members with visible number tags whenever they use equipment that makes identification difficult (balaclavas – the so-called “masks”). During their visit, the representatives of APADOR-CH saw an agent equipped for intervention – but without  a balaclava – on a corridor of the facility.

The penitentiary had a video surveillance system covering exclusively the corridors and the transit spaces. The confinement room had four beds, but no detainee was held in there at the time of the visit.

The facility had its own water source, but was also connected to the public water network. In winter time, the facility used natural gas to provide its own heating. Hot water was provided twice a week, for 1-2 hours.

Each room had its own exercise yard, and the yards were separated by bars and covered with a metal grill, which, in addition to their small size (about 20 square meters) made them look shockingly similar to cages. APADOR-CH considers that the generous piece of property surrounding the facility could easily allow for larger exercise yards.

 

2. The kitchen area

The kitchen was clean, with freshly painted walls and washed floors. However, the ventilation seemed to be wanting. The prison management said that the ventilation system was in good function, since its rehabilitation in 2005, but the room where the food was prepared was filled by dense vapor. APADOR-CH recommends that the ventilation system be checked and repaired.

The menu of the day included vegetable soup and pork stew with potatoes, while diabetes patients were going to have moussaka. The food looked reasonably well. Persons on diet received portioned meat and detainees who worked received extra proteins.

At the time of the visit, several detainees worked at the storehouse, cleaning and preparing cabbages for pickling. The vegetables came from the farm’s garden. The storehouse was very well organized, with a potato storage area, barrels of root vegetables preserved for the winter and several refrigerators with portioned pork, wrapped in foil, by category (tenderloin, leg, fat).

The farm also had 28 cows, whose milk was used for special diet detainees.

The canteen for detainees, which had already been under construction during the previous visit, was not yet completed.

3.  Detention rooms

The detention spaces of the facility (three sections alternating different detention regimes) were organized in a single unit, enclosed in the general yard. It comprised the visitation rooms, the shop, the small exercise yards, and even the office of the liaison judge. A positive aspect was that detention sections had psychological counseling offices and study rooms for the various schooling activities. The penitentiary also had a sports hall, with some gym equipment and a ping-pong table.

Sections had payphones on the corridors. Detainees could use them freely, as long as they had credit on their phone cards, with no limitation from the prison management. The info-kiosks were working.

Beside the detention block, the facility also included some administrative buildings, a festivity yard, a football field, the hothouses and two recently inaugurated rooms for detainees under open regime who worked outside the penitentiary.

The rooms, completed just two month earlier, had 28 beds. They were clean, well aired, with spacious lavatories. Detainees who worked were provided with hot water more frequently than the others. At the time of the visits, the occupants of the rooms were at work.

Section 2 – closed regime

Room 35 held 14 detainees in 14 beds. Detainees said that they were took part in sporting activities once a week and could spend 2-3 hours per day in the yards adjacent to their rooms – which were too small. The rooms, too, did not measure more than 5×5 meters. The lavatories could be cleaner and the men complained that two hours of hot water per day were not enough for the 14 occupants of the room to shower. They also complained about the poor quality of the food. Most of the inmates in room 35 complained that on several occasions they were not taken to see the doctor when they requested.

The representatives of APADOR-CH verified the consultation record at the medical office and noted that during the previous two weeks at least two detainees from room 35 had seen the doctor.

Detainees also said that they were afraid to complain to the liaison judge, because it made them stand out in a negative way and then they could suffer repercussions for their complaints. They wanted to participate in more social and educational activities and said that those who were registered for school could not take part in the other activities.

These detainees, like most others in the facility, complained about the high prices at the in-house shop and about not being allowed to receive cooked food in their parcels.

In room 42, for maximum security regime, there was a single detainee and four beds. The man had been transferred from Tulcea and said that conditions at the Slobozia Penitentiary were much better.

Preventive arrest

Room 27 held 11 detainees in 12 beds. They complained that food was bad and that prices at the in-house shop were high. They also pointed out that the hot water schedule was too tight to allow all the occupants of the room to shower.

Section 3

Room 53 held the minors – 5 of them in 8 beds. The room was spacious and the lavatory was similar to the others and would have required more cleanliness. The minors were in transit. They said that the food was good and that they received envelopes and stamps to write home. The prison management added that upon their arrival minors also received a personal hygiene kit that included soap, toothpaste, toilet paper and a disposable razor. 

The management said that in general it tried to provide the necessary personal hygiene items every month, but in months when the budget was scarce the items were directed mainly to detainees who did not receive any visitors.

4. Medical care

The dentist’s office had a permanent employee who saw an average of 10-12 detainees every day. The dentist also worked with prosthetic labs in the city, as long as they agreed to work at prices set by CASAOPSNAJ, the health insurance agency.

Beside the dentist, the medical staff consisted of two GPs, 5 nurses, a pharmacy assistant and a dentist’s assistant.. The doctor on duty at the time of the visit said that the main health problems in the facility were cardio-vascular diseases, hepatitis, and mental conditions.

Detainees did not receive free condoms, but the prison management said that they had sent the ANP a request for condoms and hoped to receive them, because while they were on stock, detainees often came and asked for them. APADOR-CH recommends that steps for the purchase of condoms should be hastened.

5.  Social and educational activities

The educational staff consisted of 10 persons (including the Orthodox priest): a psychologist, a social worker, four educators, a sports monitor, a technical assistant and a chief of service. At the time of the visit, there were no training courses ongoing at the facility, but courses for masons and animal farmers had been held during the previous month. A new course, for construction workers, was planned to start soon.

The penitentiary had a well endowed library where a book club functioned every month (detainees took turns to prepare book reviews).

School classes were limited to grades 1-7 and involved 32 detainees. They were taught by teachers from city schools. The “Second Chance” literacy program involved another 11 detainees.

At the time of the visit, about 10 detainees were preparing for release, a special program held by the psychologist of the facility.

  1. Visitation and correspondence

The visitation sector was located inside the detention unit. Visits took place either in a room with tables or in separated cabins, where communication took place by phone. At the time of the visit, several detainees occupied the cabins. In the rooms visited by the representatives of APADOR-CH, some detainees complained that the phones in the visitation cabins did not work properly and that they could not hear their families well enough.

Visits had to be scheduled by phone or e-mail. Parcels were opened in front of the detainees – some of them complained that the facility required the families to provide only vacuumed packaging, which was inconvenient for many, because foods otherwise packaged were cheaper.  

7. The liaison judge

The Slobozia Penitentiary worked with the same liaison judge as in 2006. He said that he had reserved Fridays for hearings, but that he received detainees on any other day. Detainees were able to file their administrative complaints using a printed form. The complaints signaled minor aspects, the judge said. He added that he visited the sections to check whether the allegations were true. The representatives of APADOR-CH could see for themselves that the activity was intense: on the day of the visit, several detainees who wanted to complain waited in front of the judge’s office.

In some cases, the liaison judge ruled against the decisions of the prison management.

8. Conclusions and recommendations

1. APADOR-CH commends the efforts of the Slobozia Penitentiary to find work for detainees and to diversify social-educational activities. Also commendable is how the hothouses are used to prepare seedlings for sale, in order to increase the budget of the facility. However, the chronic lack of funding prevents the hothouses to be used at full capacity all year long. This is a setback, because the hothouses can both provide work for detainees and bring a constant flow of revenue to the penitentiary. APADOR-CH recommends finding solutions to ensure the necessary investment for the permanent functioning of the hothouses.

2. The Association considers that the very small amount of space per detainee is tantamount to degrading treatment and recommends the opening of extra detention spaces to remedy overcrowding.

3. Regarding the high prices at the in-house shop, an aspect found at fault in most penitentiaries visited by the Association, APADOR-CH recommends that the ANP should change the way the commercial spaces are let. Currently, a tender takes place and the space is let to the company offering the highest rent – which makes it later increase the prices of the merchandise in order to recover the rent money paid to the ANP.

Other conclusions and recommendation have been included in the report.

 

Maria-Nicoleta Andreescu                                                                Dollores Benezic