Report on the visit to the Craiova Penitentiary

Wednesday - 19 December 2012
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On December 19, 2012, two representatives of APADOR-CH visited the Craiova Penitentiary. The previous visit had taken place on June 4, 2004 (see the previous report at http://www.apador.org/show_report_nf.php?id=32).

 

 

General aspects – population, detention spaces, staff

 

The Craiova Penitentiary held 1.157 detainees (of whom 105 women), under all existing detention regimes (open regime for those providing services for the prison, semi-open, closed and maximum security regime for the rest of the inmates). Detainees were accommodated in 8 sections, of which one was women only. There were no minors, because Craiova also has a Penitentiary for Minor and Young Detainees. The Craiova penitentiary is the only facility in counties Dolj, Olt and Gorj to have a special section for women and it functions as the coordinating unit for all the facilities in the area: Pelendava, Severin and Târgu Jiu, as well as the Penitentiary for Minor and Young Detainees in Craiova.

 

Overcrowding was a stringent problem that the prison management was aware of (the penitentiary had 1.317 on 2.626 square meters, twice as many as it should, had it observed international standards). However, the managers claimed that there had been no cases, ever, of detainees having to share a bed. In order to relax the situation, sleeping quarters for 40 persons were organized in the shoe workshop, for detainees working there. The penitentiary had different types of rooms, from those of maximum three beds (for those posing high risk for the safety of detention) to those of 27 or even 45 beds, in the preventive arrest section. The prison management said that works were ongoing at the external section in Işalniţa, where women were going to be transferred in better conditions than in Craiova, creating more space for the men. The section was estimated to be completed in the first quarter of 2013.

 

The staff of Craiova Penitentiary working directly with the detainees consisted of 353 persons, of whom 289 in the security and detention regime departments (30 were members of the intervention troops, the masked squad), 16 in the medical department and 18 in the social and educational department.

 

The prison management admitted that masked squads did operate in the prison, but claimed they were only used as a discouragement force and only when detainees needed to be taken outside the facility. However, the representatives of APADOR-CH had the occasion to see masked guards inside the penitentiary during their visit. APADOR-CH reminds the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the case of Cucu v. Romania, pointing out to the recommendations of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and of Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (CPT) regarding the presence of such intervention squads in prisons. The CPT considers that masked squads create an oppressing atmosphere because their masks make it difficult to identify a suspect in a case of ill treatment. CPT also recommended that members of the special intervention unit should not wear masks under any circumstances.

 

Medical care

 

The Craiova Penitentiary had a medical section employing 10 nurses and 6 doctors – 3 GPs, a psychiatrist, a pulmonologist and a dentist. A radiologist was a permanent collaborator of the penitentiary, where a radiology cabinet also exists. The most frequent problems were mental conditions, liver conditions (hepatitis 15-20 cases), syphilis and TB (much less numerous). There were no HIV cases, but nor were there any tests done. Or, in the absence of the test, no one could certainly say whether there were or not any HIV infected detainees. The Association suggests that the penitentiary should inform detainees, after their first medical exam, that they had the possibility of taking an HIV test if they wanted.   

 

Condoms were also distributed at the medical cabinet. The GP said that detainees knew about it and asked for condoms any time they needed. APADOR-CH considers that condoms should be accessible elsewhere, because for some detainees, asking for condoms to a doctor is tantamount to admitting homosexual relations, which are not fully accepted in the penitentiary system. The infirmary also ran a syringe exchange program, but it had not been used for a while because there had been no drug users inside, except for some suspected cases of ethnic botanicals consumption.

 

The doctor said that the penitentiary provided medical care for detainees but did not always have all necessary medication. In many cases, detainees were taken to town for specialist consults, even to private clinics, if they could afford to pay. The Association asks the National Administration of Penitentiaries (ANP) to solve the crisis of medicine in prisons, for instance by granting a larger budget chapter to drug purchase.

 

Infirmary had 6 rooms for admitted patients. At the time of the visit, there was one detainee admitted, after having been brutalized a room mate in a fight over a mobile phone. The detainee had a swollen jaw and said that he was well taken care of.

 

The daily examination norm was of at least 50 detainees, the doctor on duty told APADOR-CH. In 2012, doctors provided 18.000 consultations, the records showed. Each detention section had one day of the week marked for medical exams but, the doctor said, detainees took advantage of the system and asked for extra visits to the infirmary.

 

 

Food and the kitchen area

 

Unlike the previous time APADOR visited, the food at the penitentiary was no longer provided by the in-house farm; detainees, however, considered it acceptable. The preferred item was the fresh bread, baked on the spot. The menu on the day of the visit was tea, biscuits and cheese for breakfast; pork bone soup and potato stew for lunch; cabbage and cracklings (with the regular supplements/variations for the various types of diet. For the day, 34 kilos of meat had been used for the regular diet, of 478 portions, meaning 70 grams of raw meat per detainee (exactly as provided by the regulations).

 

18 detainees worked in the kitchen area and other 10 at the bakery that had a capacity of 5,000 loafs per day, but only produced a fraction, because the facility was not authorized to sell the surplus. The investment for the bakery was 2 billion lei (old currency) from the budget of the penitentiary. Recent investments had also been made for the frigorific rooms were food was kept. The kitchen was clean.

 

An encouraging aspect was that the prison staff decided not to mix the pieces of meat into the main course, but to serve them directly on the plates, so that each detainee was sure to receive a relatively equal piece.

 

The in-house food shop was well stocked at the time of the visit, including fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as meat products that required preparation, like crenwurst. The shop assistant said that detainees needed approval from the prison management to buy certain items, but that pans and immersion heaters, as well as other personal hygiene items, could be obtained without permit. However, only women were allowed to buy plastic tubs, for fear men should use them as recipients to fabricate alcohol. It was unclear why a plastic tub increased the risk of alcohol fabrication, since men were allowed to detain many items that could well serve to the same purpose (mineral water bottles, juice boxes, buckets, etc). The tub discrimination, applied in all Romanian prisons, is quite comical and should cease, because even male detainees may have special needs in terms of personal hygiene or may want to do their laundry.

 

 

Social reinsertion activities

 

The social and educational service of the Craiova Penitentiary has 18 employees (in papers, there were 20, the chief and 19 employees, but two women were on maternal leave at the time of the visit). The personnel scheme included 5 positions for psychologists, but only two were occupied. There were 4 social workers, 2 chiefs of service, 3 educating officers and 8 educating under-officers. The orthodox priest serving the prison was paid by the Craiova Episcopate. In the opinion of the Association, all orthodox priests in penitentiaries should be paid by the church, not by the ANP, as is the case of the other religious denominations accessing prisons, which pay their own representatives.

 

During the visit, a folk music show was ongoing in the festivity room, and many detainees from the closed regime were attending, with guards and the masked squad watching them.

 

The social and educational service ran several activities for education, counseling or entertainment, beside school as such. The prison also had a library, rather poorly stocked. The staff said detainees were not encouraged to borrow books, because they were often moved to other prisons, while books were inventory items.

 

The building hosting the service had been recently renovated and had special rooms for the various activities, including a gym for sporting activities to be used in bad weather.

 

Work

 

28 detainees held under the open regime worked outside the penitentiary, at RECON, a constructions company. Other 68-70 detainees worked inside the prison, in the production unit, for a shoe company in Alba. The prison workshop was organized on two floors and included sewing machines and other shoe-making tools, purchased with European funds.

 

Compared to the previous visit, a good development was the opening of a bakery, making fresh bread for detainees in the prison and for those in the county custody facility. Ten detainees worked at the bakery and other 18 in the kitchen, while several scores provided the other domestic services like distributing food, cleaning, service duty – especially in the high risk and maximum security sectors).

 

 

Visits and correspondence

 

In the visitation sector, there were rooms arranged for both separator visits and open visits. The prison management considered it to be the most modern prison visitation center in the country. There were two rooms for spouse visits and a room for mother and child interaction. The visits could be scheduled both by phone and by e-mail, and each detainee was allowed to receive a 90 minute visit per month. In December, however, as the schedule was busier, the program management allowed only 60 minutes visits, so that more visits could be programmed.

 

The parcel room had a door viewer and parcels were opened in the presence of detainees and of their visitors. The maximum limits for a parcel were 10 kilos of food, 6 kilos of fresh fruit and vegetables and 20 liters of water/juice. Cooked food that required re-heating was not allowed and big lumps were usually cut through, to check for hidden objects.

 

Each detainee had a right to spend at most 350 lei and to make 20 minute phone calls each week. The received mail was recorded in a registry – with the name of the sender and receiver.

 

The liaison judge

 

The liaison judge had his office in the administrative building of the prison and was assisted by a court clerk. The same clerk also worked for two other penitentiaries in the area. The liaison judge said that most of the complaints coming from detainees were related to the detention regime and to the sanctions they were submitted to by the prison management. In 2012, the records of the liaison judge indicated that 1,200 sanctions were passed in the Craiova Penitentiary. Detainees usually complained about being re-categorized into a more severe regime, but there had been cases where detainees contested their being moved into a more relaxed regime, because they did not want to be transferred from Craiova to Târgu-Jiu, Drobeta-Turnu Severin or Pelendava, as they wanted to remain closer to their families, albeit in a stricter detention regime. Other complaints were against confinement decisions.

 

The liaison judge said there had been cases of hunger strike, which he described as “so-called hunger strikes”, one of which lasted for as much as 7 days. The judge said that detainees who used this form of protest believed this was the way to make their complaints on detention conditions known to the court. There had also been cases of self-mutilation, by detainees who did not receive all their medication for a treatment. The judge and the doctor explained that, had they received all their treatment at once, they would have sold the drugs. The liaison judge said that he had taken decisions contradicting the prison management and that his opinion had been in general taken into account.

 

The Craiova Penitentiary did not have an info kiosk system yet, as other prisons did, but detainees had phone cards for their daily phone calls.

 

 

The women’s section

 

The 105 women held at Craiova Penitentiary were accommodated in section 1, in a building with all its windows opening into the inner courtyard, to avoid any contact with male detainees. The women served sentences under all detention regimes: 16 under open regime, 57 under semi-open regime, 14 under closed regime and two under the maximum security regime; 15 were under preventive arrest and one had not yet been categorized. As all the rooms were on the same section, the procedures for the different regimes could hardly be observed. Although women under the open and semi-open regime were usually allowed to keep their rooms open during the day, the cells had to be locked every time other detainees had to be moved from one location to another.

 

The section had a canteen, which was also used for other activities, such as school classes (grades 1-4) attended by 18 detainees, or carol concerts such as the one offered by one religious denomination right during the visit. The section also had a laundry room, with an automatic machine that detainees were allowed to use. Room no. 2, open regime, had 15 beds on 30 square meters, while the room for semi-open regime had 24 beds on 27 sq m. Room no. 7, for maximum security regime, had 6 beds on about 6 sq. m., and it accommodated two detainees. Room no. 4 (two beds on 4 sq m, used as a quarantine room) held two women, one of whom was 7 months pregnant.

 

Detainees said they had hot running water three times per day and the detention regime was acceptable. One of the women in the quarantine room complained that she had no way to learn about her rights and asked for several books, some of which were legal texts, while another said she could not get physiotherapy for her scoliosis. In this case, the persons in charge said she could not be treated until she could produce a recommendation from the doctor.

 

Women had an exercise yard where they also hung their laundry to dry. The mailbox was outside the building, where women could only get under escort. But the prison staff claimed detainees  could access the mailbox any time they asked and that it would be impossible to move the mailbox inside the section, because a postal worker needed to empty it and it was not recommended that he would enter a women’s section. The Association considers that the presence of a postal worker in the women’s section, in order to pick up the mail, was not supposed to create any sort of problems and asks the prison management to move the mailbox on the corridor, alongside the pay phones.

 

Of the 105 women detainees, 21 went to work in a separate space of the shoe workshop.

 

Detention spaces for male detainees

 

Male detainees were categorized as follows: 236 under preventive arrest, 164 under maximum security regime, of whom 25 considered GSR (high risk), 559 on closed regime, 13 on semi-open regime, 36 on open regime and 44 not categorized. The rooms 77,64 mp – for 48 beds; 34-38 sq m – for 27 beds; 6 sq m for maximum security rooms – two beds each; and 22-32 sq m – closed regime rooms for 15-21 beds each.

 

The representatives of APADOR-CH visited the preventive arrest, quarantine, closed regime, maximum security and the GSR (high risk) sections, as well as the confinement area.

 

The preventive arrest and quarantine section

 

The section had 5 rooms for preventive arrest and three for quarantine. As in the women’s section, there was a canteen with tables and cutlery, but detainees could choose to take the food to their rooms, if they wanted. There were three exercise yards, one of them with fitness equipment, In Room no. 16 – preventive arrest – there were 48 detainees in 48 beds (on three levels) on about 60 square meters. Overcrowding was obvious. The men on preventive arrest said the food was acceptable, as was the detention regime; they had running water, two hours per day in the exercise yards and sporting activities. They also said that the lavatory with three toilet cabins and four showers was sufficient. The only complaint was that the in-house shop was expensive, especially in the processed meat department.

 

Closed regime

 

Males held in closed regime occupied sections 4 and 5 in a horseshoe building. They were accommodated in two types of rooms: larger, 21 beds rooms, measuring 32 square meters and smaller, 15 beds rooms, measuring 22 square meters. The beds were on three levels. Each detainee had a personal space of 1.5 sq m, which indicated a serious level of overcrowding. The lavatories in the rooms were in acceptable state, with two showers and two toilet cabins each. Rooms looked neat and were well warmed up and lit. At the time of the visit, many of the detainees in closed regime were at work. Those present were cleaning the rooms and they said they were satisfied by the detention conditions.

 

 

Maximum security regime and high risk detainees

 

Detainees held under maximum security and high risk regime occupied a semi-circular building with 19 rooms on each floor. The rooms measured about 6 sq m (including the lavatory) and had three beds each.

 

The representatives of APADOR-CH visited section 6B – maximum security and section 6A – high risk (GSR). Detainees from 6B said they were content with detention conditions. In section 6A, there were 25 detainees categorized as high-risk. APADOR-CH insists that detainees dubbed as “high-risk” must remained in the detention regime selected by the categorization commission of the prison, the only difference being that agents and officers must keep a closer eye on them. It is not normal that a detainee labeled as high-risk should end up automatically in the maximum security section. In one of the rooms, one detainee had been held by himself for 8 days, and complained about it, especially since he had no TV. He said it was very harsh with no one to talk to and waited for the prison management to approve his request to receive a TV set from another inmate who didn’t need his any more. The detainee also complained of lack of activity and of the cold in the room.

 

 

Confinement

 

Confinement rooms were on the last floor, alongside the maximum security section. The outer walls of the floor were made entirely of glass brick, which make it very cold. On the same floor with confinement room was Room no. 101, which looked like an improvisation on a corridor. It had no door, just like the confinement rooms, although the 5 detainees there were held under closed regime, not on confinement. Detainee Constantin Cernea complained that he was not taken to the medical ward as often as he needed, that he had caught a cold for several days because of the low temperature but he didn’t receive the medication he needed. He also said that the nurses offended him. Room no. 101 did not include a lavatory and detainees were taken to the showers only twice a week.

 

Confinement rooms were small, dark and had no doors, only bars, opening on the corridor lit through the glass brick wall. Room no. 104 held detainee Ion Stan, who showed clear signs of mental illness and of self-mutilation. The man said he had no relatives outside and received no visits. APADOR-CH mentioned his case to the prison management, who explained that the detainee had been sent to psychiatric exams several times and each time he was returned to prison on grounds that his state “had improved”. The Association considers that the detainee was subjected to inhuman treatment and asks the prison management and the ANP to find a solution for him to get proper medical treatment and better detention conditions.

 

In Room 105 there were two detainees held in confinement. They had been brought in from the maximum security section and said that the conditions were acceptable.

 

 

Conclusions and recommendations

 

1. APADOR-CH asks for urgent steps to be taken in order to reduce overcrowding. In that respect, the Association considers that completing works at the Işalniţa external section would improve the situation to some extent and asks the ANP to provide the necessary resources for opening the section as soon as possible.

 

2. The Association asks the ANP to take into account the recommendations of the CTP, also approved by the ECHR, regarding the masks won by intervention squads in penitentiaries and to put an end to the practices used in Romanian prisons. The CTP considers that the wearing of masks by these troops is unjustified in any circumstances

 

3. APADOR-CH asks the prison management to take urgent measured regarding the regime of detainees held in the maximum security and confinement sections, especially those held by themselves in a room. In the opinion of the Association, they are submitted to inhuman treatment.

 

Other conclusions and recommendations have been included in the report.

 

 

Maria-Nicoleta Andreescu                                                                Dollores Benezic