Report on the visit of the Târgu-Jiu Penitentiary

Monday - 24 June 2019
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On June 17, 2019 two APADOR-CH representatives visited the Târgu-Jiu Penitentiary, situated in the town with the same name. The last visit took place in 2016, the report from that visit can be accessed on the Associations’ website.

General information

At the moment of our visit the Târgu Jiu Penitentiary housed 302 detainees under the following regimes: 54 under open regime (39 on the off-premises prison farm, 14 inside the penitentiary, 1 in the infirmary), 244 under the semi-open regime, 1 detainee for transfer and 3 detainees under quarantine. The penitentiary does not have any section for provisional detention, for women or minors, only for detainees to be transferred.

The penitentiary has 393, but its capacity under the 4 sqm standard would only be of 218 persons, thus we can conclude that the Târgu Jiu Penitentiary is overcrowded. Yet the situation has vastly improved since our 2016 visit. This improvement has three main factors, the first is the law on sentence reduction – 60 detainees had been released in one day in the week prior to our visit, the second reason is the fact that the Mioveni Penitentiary has been transformed into a penitentiary for a semi-open and open regime, which enabled the transfer of some detainees from Târgu Jiu and the third reason resides in the modifications brought by the Romanian Criminal Law which reduced the sentence for certain crimes. The prison manager estimated that they would reach the target number of 200 detainees under the 4 sqm standards by 2021.

The prison farm is 3 km outside the city, it has 18.5 ha of land, 3 lakes and 3 rooms housing the detainees working on the farm raising cattle and growing vegetables for the penitentiary.

Regarding any investments the penitentiary hasn’t finished the construction of the administrative wing which started in 2016 due to legislative changes which triggered the termination of the contract.  The wing is 75% completed and works will resume in the following year. Other improvements were made in 2016: a washing machine, regular maintenance works, replacement of all the mattresses (only some of them had been replaced in 2016), some beds were removed, thus the rooms gained some square footage and in 2017 new beds were purchased; furthermore the pressure cookers were replaced with new ones. The prison director mentioned that no new detention spaces had been created since 2016. Furthermore, the video surveillance system needs further improvements in 2019 as the observation posts will be removed further down the road. These investments haven’t been carried out due to financial reasons. The funds needed for the video surveillance system had been allocated in Q4 2018, but the tender wasn’t finalized due to lack of specialized personnel to establish the technical specifications for the tender. Thus, the amount was slashed from the 2019 budget.

The management intends to tear down a stockroom from the section off-premises to create 40 new detention places (the funds for a feasibility study were allocated this year).

Work

The penitentiary’s representatives stated that compared to the previous years the number of working detainees has decreased, due to the fact that the number of detainees has decreased on the one hand, and on the other hand due to the fact that the company Rilug which ensured a large portion of the income (manual footwear stitching), about 70%. Currently, 40 detainees work off-premises (construction works, wood chopping, Avicola poultry farm) and 70 detainees work on-premises. The prison director mentioned that they accommodate all requests from companies willing to hire detainees.

The kitchen

The kitchen occupies seven rooms and is thus divided in a vegetable peeling area, food pantry, bathrooms and changing facilities for the personnel working in the kitchen and the cooking area itself. The bathrooms were immaculate and had been recently renovated. The cooking area is fitted with 4 pressure cookers in good condition, 3 cooker hoods, a gas cooker and an oven. The floor of the kitchen was wet and sticky in some places, the ceiling was scorched, and the APADOR -CH representatives found two cockroaches on the ceiling over the food containers.

At the date of our visit the cooker hoods were out of order. The prison director mentioned that they plan to replace the ventilation system in 2019. The replacement of the ventilation systems should be an absolute priority.

At the time of our visit the menu for lunch consisted of sour vegetable soup, pilaf with meat, and potato stew for the detainees suffering from diabetes; the menu for dinner was zucchini stew and semolina porridge. The few cuts of meat available were wrapped in paper and served separately. Nonetheless our representatives couldn’t help but notice the meagre quantity of the meat served and the low number of portions compared to the number of detainees.

Lunch also included an apple. All the vegetables used to prepare the food for the inmates come from the prison farm. The prison has a supply agreement for bread, concluded with a local company. The bread was fresh on the day of our visit.

The food pantry and the meat refrigerators were well organized. 11 detainees are on kitchen duty. There is no dining area because the architecture of the penitentiary can’t allow it.

Visitation sector

The visitation sector consists of a room for package inspection, one visitation room without any separated booths, one room for conjugal visits and one room dedicated to court videoconferences, which according to the prison director is fully functioning, but was locked at during our visit and our representatives couldn’t inspect it.

The visitation area itself has 5 booths, but similar to our last visit, two booths were used as a storage area for files and registries, which needed to be archived. One booth is for meetings with the lawyers and another booth was fitted for online visits. The employees stated that the equipment is fully functioning, but there haven’t been any requests to use it this year as most of the detainees are from the same region, thus the families visit them in person. Nonetheless, after interviewing the detainees we found out that they had no knowledge about the possibility of communicating with their families online.

The visitation room had six long tables with 6 chairs on both sides. The room also contained an area for visiting children; this area had a sofa and used toys, an old and functional TV set and curtains for body searches. Our Association regards this area as inappropriate, as the same sofa – not separated from the rest of the room – was used both for visiting minors and body searches.  The prison could make some small investments to create a warmer environment (new toys, some colouring books, a new sofa, some separation of the area).

The room for conjugal visits was adequately equipped with a TV, clean sheets and spotless bathroom. The average is 30 conjugal visits per year.

The room for court videoconferencing wasn’t used very often, as the courts are reluctant to use it, according to the prison director.

Walking courts

The penitentiary has four walking courts, of approximately 35 sqm each, one of them is for detainees in transit, two for the regular detainees and the fourth is used as an outdoor gym. The courts resemble with cages, they are totally covered up with bars and partially with plexiglass. The dimensions of the walking courts are small considering that the penitentiary has rooms housing 20-30 persons who simultaneously use the courts.  Unfortunately, there is no other available space which can be transformed into a walking yard. The outdoor gym has 5 fitness machines, partially rusty and worn out.

 

Medical assistance

Medical assistance is ensured by a head physician (specializing in family medicine), 9 nurses working in shifts, 3 psychologists and one dentist. There is a job opening for another physician, but there is a current hiring freeze due to legislative reasons. The physician is available from Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 3 pm. The nurses work in shifts (12-24, 12-48). At night there is a nurse on call. The penitentiary has its own ambulance.

The daily average is 30 consults. Pharmaceutical products are bought from Colibași and there have been no issues so far. Medicine can also be bought from the outside, with on a medical prescription. The cooperation with medical units in Targu Jiu is excellent. The medical practice does not have a defibrillator, and although defibrillators are not included in the list of mandatory equipment for prison medical facilities, the Association considers that a defibrillator is necessary for medical emergencies.

The most extended stay in the prison infirmary was one year; the detainee was suffering from multiple chronic conditions. There have been two deaths in last year – one due to medical reasons and one due to suicide. This year, one detainee in transit committed suicide.

The penitentiary does not stock any condoms. The Association strongly believes that this would be a minimal investment in the health of the detainees.

From the interview conducted with the nurse on call, we were able to conclude that the most common health concerns are mental health issues (38 inmates are undergoing psychotropic treatment) and cardiovascular diseases (47 detainees).

Blood tests are carried out by a local medical laboratory.

The dental practice is fully equipped. The working hours of the dental practice are shown on the door, and the practice has dedicated timeslots for each section.

Educational and social reintegration department

As we visited during a public holiday the representatives of the educational and social reintegration department were unavailable.

The prison director mentioned that the penitentiary does not have a dedicated priest as the last one retired. Religious services are currently provided by an Orthodox priest who serves every Sunday and for every major religious holiday. Although the day of our visit was a religious holiday there was no religious service and there were no social activities.

The judge for the supervision of the deprivation of liberty

For the same reason (public holiday) the judge for the supervision of the deprivation of liberty was not on site.

The prison director stated that the judge for the supervision of the deprivation of liberty took over on June 5, 2019. The same judge also handles any requests from the Provisional detainment centre. So far there have not been any judgements ascertaining any infringement of the detainees’ rights. However, there have been requests for transfers to penitentiaries which observe the 4 sqm standard and these requests have been denied due to the lack thereof.

Visit of the individual sections

The APADOR -CH representatives visited several rooms, as follows: Room E1.1 (the largest room) holding 36 persons (with 40 beds), Room E1.14 – holding 18 persons (22 beds), Room E3.4 – holding 8 persons (12 beds), Room E2.10 – holding 18 persons (24 beds).

Depending on the size of the individual rooms the detention facilities are equipped with one or to TV sets, one or two ventilators, two showers, to squat toilets, two sinks and refrigerator. Windows from the crowded rooms have been removed due to the high temperatures in summer, however, this hasn’t done anything to improve the situation, considering the scorching temperatures outside.

All telephones are available on the hallways of the sections.

All the detainees had similar complaints, regardless of their detention regime:

  • Bedbug infestation at certain time intervals (the detainees admitted that the penitentiary carries out any disinsectisation promptly)
  • The very high-fat content of meat – closer to lard
  • The dentist only handles emergencies, and there is no dental prosthetics available;
  • The fee for phone calls is higher compared to other penitentiaries (0,53 Lei/min)
  • No phone calls allowed after 6.30 pm, this makes it impossible for some detainees to contact their families who work at those hours;
  • The schedule for hot water is too short for the rooms which house a large number of detainees, as the showers are insufficient, this creates conflicts between the defines. A time interval between 30 minutes and one hour is insufficient for 20-30 persons, especially in summer and especially for those who work on the farms.
  • Detainees under semi-open regime can only stay in the courtyards for 4 hours instead of 8 as is the standard, especially the detainees who are also working only go in the courtyard every other day;
  • Some detainees claimed that there are too few activities.

Concluding remarks and recommendations

APADOR -CH reckons that the issue of overcrowding still has not been solved, as there is only two sqm for each detainee, which infringes the four sqm recommendations made by the Council of Europe Anti-Torture Committee. We recommend that the prison management and the Romanian Prison Administration Authority find urgent solutions to reduce the number of detainees in some rooms.

It is worth mentioning that there is a gendarmerie unit close by, in Bumbești-Jiu, which is fully equipped, and which would fulfil all the needs of the penitentiary with a minimal investment. This unit isn’t used currently and if left unattended it will continue to deteriorate. The Târgu Jiu prison director mentioned that they proposed the use of this facility to the Romanian National Prison Administration Authority since 2016, but this the Ministry of Interior Affairs and the Ministry of Justice have not come to an agreement on this matter.

APADOR-CH recommends the following:

  • Investments in the food preparation area (renovations, new ventilation system)
  • Refurbishing of the area destined for children visiting prisons
  • The prison director must continue their efforts to take over the Bumbeşti -Jiu location and to transform it into a penitentiary, considering that the prison needs detention areas which observe the international standards.

 

Livia Popa

Nicoleta Popescu

Traducere Cristina Badea-Guțu