Report on the visit at the Timişoara Penitentiary

Wednesday - 6 November 2013
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On November 6, 2013, two representatives of APADOR-CH visited the Timişoara Penitentiary. The previous visit had taken place on May 17, 2007.

1. General considerations, population, personnel

At the time of the visit, the penitentiary held a total number of 1,175 detainees, all male, of whom 6 young detainees and 4 minors. The facility was organized in 10 sections, by detention regime, as follows: open (318), semi-open (756), preventive arrest (80) and observation/quarantine (21).

From data provided by the prison management, it turned out that the institution had about 2,792 sq m used exclusively as detention space, resulting in 2.4 sq m of personal space per detainee. APADOR-CH criticizes the excessive overcrowding at Timişoara Penitentiary and asks the prison management and the National Administration of Penitentiaries (ANP) to urgently find solutions so that each detainee is provided with at least 4 sq m of personal space, as recommended by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatments or Punishments (CPT).

The whole structure of Building no. 1, where 136 persons were held under the open and semi-open regime, was severely damaged – a technical study showed. For that reason, the prison management had asked for the building to be demolished and rebuilt, but the ANP had only approved capital repairs, without however allotting the necessary budget.

According to the governor, a project was approved for a new visitation sector to be built in 2014. Also, at the time of the visit, one of the office buildings was being extended, to be partially used for education activities for detainees. Between 2011 and 2012, the kitchen area had been renovated.

There were 384 positions for the staff at the Timişoara Penitentiary, but only 316 were occupied  (82.29%). 222 of the employees worked in the operative department, 18 in the social and educational department and only 12 in the medical department (of whom one doctor was on maternal leave, leaving two doctors and 9 nurses to cover medical care). The medical department was the most understaffed, with 66.66% occupancy rate.

Among the problems enumerated by the governor were the insufficient infrastructure and the syncopes in medical supplies.

2. Work for detainees

At the time of the visit, from the total population of 1,175, 156 detainees performed paid work for various beneficiaries, 237 provided in-house services and 7 worked as volunteers. 97 of them worked outside the facility. The total number of detainees who were employed was 400, representing 34% of the total prison population.

The Penitentiary collaborated with private individuals and companies. It had contracts for works such as: sanitation, cleaning, constructions, digging, interior decorations, gardening, logging, planting, burr removing, assembling electrical switches, sewing shoe soles, archiving.

3. Social and educational activities

The department employed 18 persons, on the 29 existing positions, leaving 11 vacancies. The domains covered were education and psycho-social assistance. The education personnel included 8 educators, a chief of service, a security agent (who was also a sports monitor), two technical agents (who fixed TV sets, radios, etc), while the psycho-social assistance personnel included a deputy director for social reinsertion, a chief psychologist, a psychologist, three social workers, as well as a orthodox priest who worked on a contract. The position for a priest was frozen because of budget restrictions, so a service contract was signed with the Timişoara Metropolitanate, paid by the penitentiary from its own revenues. The Association points out that the orthodox service offered by the penitentiary may be considered discriminatory for detainees like Catholics, Greek-Catholics and other officially acknowledged denominations, who could not benefit from religious services. Moreover, APADOR-CH considers that the Timişoara Penitentiary had more urgent needs to spend money on, like hiring a psychiatrist.

At the time of the visit, none of the four minors held at the facility was enlisted for school. According to the representative of the social and educational department, the minors had literacy classes and painting lessons.

The facility was involved in a European project in partnership with the Botoşani and Satu-Mare Penitentiaries, to qualify 800 detainees for a series of trades:

·         Construction finishing works;

·         Animal farming;

·         Thermopane windows, plastic confections;

·         Joinery industries.

 

All graduates of the qualification course signed a contract pledging at least 80% attendance. After release, a private HR company attempted to find jobs for these detainees. During the first 6 months, they were not allowed to refuse more than 3 work offers, or they became liable to pay the value of the course. The project was ongoing, so the results were not available at the time of the visit.

4. Medical care

The medical office employed two GPs (but only one actually came to work, while a second was in maternal leave), a dentist, seven nurses, a pharmacy assistant and a hygiene assistant.

About 60 detainees were examined every day – too much for one doctor. The most common health problems were chronic conditions, followed by cardio-vascular and digestive diseases (gastritis, hepatitis – of which 50% chronic hepatitis). A quarter of the detainees were under evidence for mental conditions and 5% received psychiatric treatment. The medical staff appreciated that about 30% of the detainees suffered from mental conditions. APADOR-CH asks for all detainees suspected of mental problems to be examined by specialists who should decide if medication is necessary, what other course of treatment should be taken for each separate case and how frequent psychiatric follow-ups should be.

The dental office was well equipped and detainees could receive emergency dental treatment.

No sexual abuses were reported in 2013 and one single death took place, caused by a heart attack. In 2012, one case of sexual molestation was reported, as well as one death, caused by cancer.

Condoms were distributed at the medical office and in the matrimonial room. APADOR-CH asks that condoms should be distributed in places accessible to all detainees (corridors, exercise yards), without recording or surveillance. It is the cheapest and most efficient method to prevent HIV and STDs contamination.

Methadone and disposable syringes were not available for drug users. According to the medical staff, there had been no cases of withdrawal.

Between March and May 2013, medication supplies suffered interruptions. The situation was also mentioned by detainees, who complained about the penury of drugs. They were also unhappy about the dental service.

5. The kitchen area

According to the governor, the kitchen was renovated in 2011-2012.

At the time of the visit, the meals were just being prepared. At 11.30 a.m., the staff was making lunch, dinner and tea for the following morning. It was hard to understand why dinner, which was served at 5 p.m., was being cooked at 11 a.m., and so much the less the next day’s tea. The representatives of the Association consider that preparing food so much earlier was not justified, especially as there were no conditions to keep food fresh for a longer period of time.

Lunch consisted of potato sup, baked beans with pork or beef with cabbage salad for diet. For dinner, the menu included cabbage with pork scraps and milk porridge. Working detainees received 600 grams of bread per day, the others 500 g. The representatives of APADOR-CH could not see how the 600 g bread loafs were sectioned to 500 grams. At the time of the visit, after the distribution of the bread, the storage room was left with about 100 extra bread loafs. The cook said that they were for unexpected arrivals or packed snacks, but the representatives of APADOR-CH considers that such a large number of unexpected detainee movements to justify so much extra bread is hardly probable.

The kitchen area was generally clean but the floor was cracked. The food and the bread looked decent. The kitchen had one employee, aided by 18 detainees.

Many of the detainees who talked to the representatives of APADOR-CH complained about the quality of the food, mentioning the tasteless dishes, the lack of diversity, the menu consisting chiefly of beans and cabbage and its low calory content.

6. Contact with the outside

Detainees could use the phone for 30 minutes per day, to make a maximum of 6 calls. There were 26 CONTEL pay phones and 2 ROMTELECOM pay phones, located on the corridors and in exercise yards. The phones seen by the representatives of the Association had no booths to ensure the confidentiality of conversations. Also, one room had 4 pay phones in a crowded space, so that conversations were bound to be disturbed by other people, as confirmed by detainees. APADOR-CH recommends for phone booths to be installed, in order to ensure the right to privacy of conversations.

The three info-kiosks in the facility allowed detainees to check their court terms, their money credit, their legal situation, the sanctions, rewards and parole hearings.

Two mailboxes were located in the facility: one inside F.3 exercise yard, for detainees in sections E.5, E.6, E.7, E.8, the other on the outer wall of F.1 exercise yard, between the access to the E1, E2, E3 and E4 building and the E8 and E9 building. Envelopes and stamps were distributed by section chiefs, who were provided with the material by the staff of the visitation section and had to sign for receipt.

The visitation sector was undersized. It had 8 places for open visits and 7 places for separated visits. The prison management had filed a request to build a new visitation sector, where parcels could also be received and distributed. The sector was under video surveillance and visitors had to pass through a metal detector gate. An x-ray scanner – out of order at the time of the visit – was also available to check visitors and their luggage.

7. The visit to the detention rooms

During the visit, the representatives of the Association noted that the exercise yards were small and had no covered parts where detainees could take shelter from sun or rain. APADOR-CH recommends that open spaces should be partly covered, so they can provide protection from rain or scorching sun.

Exercise yards and other common spaces were under video surveillance. Some areas were provided with gym equipment.

A well furnished in-house shop provided detainees with various goods, at similar prices with outside markets.

Most detainees complained about the quality of the laundry service, preferring to do their own laundry, in their rooms. The facility had only two washing machines, one of which was out of order. The only bed linen accepted was white, a rule that caused discontentment among inmates. They also complained about the limited hot water schedule – one hour and a half per day – and about the dirty and inappropriate mattresses. Indeed, the heating unit of the penitentiary was old and the mattresses were extremely worn out.

From discussions with detainees, the representatives of APADOR-CH noted a general nervousness among the prison population. Detainees complained about their relation with the staff and showed reserve in filing complaints against them, for fear of possible retaliation. APADOR-CH recommends that alleged abuse by prison staff should be looked into; such suspicions can seriously undermine the relation between the prison population and the staff.

Most rooms were insalubrious, with damp walls, overcrowded and foul smelling. For instance, room E 6.3 held 32 detainees in 33 beds on less than 50 sq m and with one shower at hand.

In some of the rooms, detainees complained of bed bugs and other parasites. The representatives of APADOR-CH could see for themselves the bite marks on their bodies.

Also, some of the detainees complained about the abusive behavior of the staff. One inmate complained about a violent incident caused by the intervention squad – and had confirmation from room mates. But he did not file an official complaint, saying he was afraid of reprisals.

The four minors detained at the Timişoara Penitentiary were under preventive arrest and were held in room E 9.18. The room was in a relatively good state, but mattresses were old, dirty and in an advanced state of decay. Minors said that drawing was their only organized activity. According to the prison staff, they also attended literacy courses. Minors could stay in the exercise yard every day between 2 and 4 p.m. but said they did not want to go out, which was at least strange, given the lack of activities.

The representatives of APADOR-CH also talked to S.R. – a former drug user. He revealed himself as an addict as soon as he was taken into custody. In police custody, he was prescribed Diazepam, which made him drowsy and made his joints ache. Due to these secondary effects, after one week SR asked for a replacement of treatment. His request was granted after a psychiatric examination. The detainee said he enjoyed the full support of the psychologist of the penitentiary.

Conclusions:

Following the visit to Timişoara Penitentiary, APADOR-CH makes the following recommendations:

·        The prison management and the ANP should find urgent solutions so that each detainee should be granted the minimum 4 sq meters of personal space recommended by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatments or Punishments (CPT);

·        Financial resources should be allocated for capital repairs in Building no. 1;

·        A general pest control operation should take place at the facility in order to eliminate bed-bugs;

 

Other findings/recommendations have been included in the report.

 

Cristinel Buzatu                                                        Nicoleta Popescu