Report on the APADOR-CH visit at the Pre-Trial Arrest and Detention Center under the supervision of the Galati Police County Inspectorate

Friday - 7 June 2019
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On the 21st of May 2019, two APADOR-CH representatives visited the Galati Police County Inspectorate detention center. Previously, this center had been visited by APADOR-CH in 2012, according to the report on the APADOR-CH site.

Detention spaces – location and amenities

The pre-trial arrest and detention center is located within the inspectorate and takes up three levels in one of the wings of the building. The wing in which the jail is currently situated in underwent a series of renovation and modernization works (paintwork, modernization and sterilization of the sanitary facilities, new furniture, mattresses, air conditioning, surveillance cameras), which were finalized in 2018.

Right from the beginning, the director of the detention center mentioned that there are some non-functional aspects at the center, reasoning that the project holds a two-year warranty period, in which time no changes or improvements are allowed to be made that would affect the original renovation plan.

The building’s basement features a library, several administrative chambers, as well as a washing machine and a laundry room for the detainees. The ground floor features six cells, a visitation booth including a divider, a medical facility and two yards meant for walking. On the first floor there are six cells and a cell for solitary confinement.

The 12 cells feature two or four bunk beds. The cells featuring two bunk beds hold one prisoner, while the cells with four bunk beds hold three prisoners. According to management, the center has a maximum detention capacity of 28 people. Dimensions for the two-bed cells range between 7.10 and 7.77 square meters (excluding the sanitation facility, which takes up approximately 1 square meter), while the four-bed cells range between 10.32 and 10.67 square meters (excluding the sanitation facility – 1 square meter). As not every bed was occupied, at the time of the visit each prisoner held in the center was allotted an average 3.5 square meters (in case of the four-bed cells), less than the standard 4 square meters, which should be the minimum allocated to a prisoner, according to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman pf Degrading Treatment of Punishment (CPT) norms.

Management claims that the “extra” beds cannot be removed due to the project warranty, which doesn’t allow for considerable changes to be made on the building. The Association considers that the project could have forecasted the placement of a smaller number of beds from the beginning in order to respect space standards, since the center modernization was undertaken precisely align the center with CPT norms. Therefore, the Galati Police County Inspectorate detention center is somewhat crowded, related to the number of beds and persons, however, APAPDOR-CH notes that the situation is much improved compared to the 2012 visit, when, according to the management from that time, there had been situations when two people shared one bed.

The sanitation facilities in each cell feature approximately 1 square meter, they are tiled and include a Turkish toilet with a shower placed above each one. In the visited cells, the detainees had plugged up the toilets with plastic bottles (PET) filled with water in order to block the sewage smell—a similar situation to the one in 2012. The cells each feature one sink along with a mirror made of damage-proof material, placed outside the sanitary facility. The cells have also been fitted with large double-glazed and fixed windows, inclinable only on the upper section. This allows for natural light and fresh air to enter, an obvious improvement compared to 2012. The sanding on the glass of the windows doesn’t allow for any visual contact with the outside world. The cells aren’t equipped with tables. In addition to bunk beds, some cells feature functional television sets (some brought in by prisoners, others from the center’s equipment base). In the two-bed cells (one-person cell) there aren’t any television sets. Asked whether he would want a television set, one inmate confessed that he had requested one but was told it wasn’t possible. The center manager reasoned that there’s a risk for the persons quartered alone to use the television cord for suicidal purposes. However, the Association considers that the prisoners’ right to information must be respected and a television set is necessary, especially in one-person cells.

The solitary confinement cell features one bed, but it does not comply with the conditions of a standard solitary chamber, and it cannot be fitted earlier than 2020 due to the same project warranty reason. This cell wasn’t being used at the time of the visit and there are plans for upcoming adjustments to be made following the expiration date of the two-year warranty period, the manager said.

 

Concentration and staff

At the time of the visit, the center held a total of 20 male prisoners, out of which 3 were minors. Other detainees had been transferred to neighboring centers, as follows: one person transferred to the Tulcea Pre-Trial Arrest and Detention Center, three persons transferred to the Vrancea Pre-Trial Arrest and Detention Center and six transferred to the Braila Pre-Trial Arrest and Detention Center. The center manager declared that it is preferred to maintain a number of available spots at the center, in case of emergencies. The Galati Pre-Trial Arrest and Detention Center occasionally hosts female prisoners, but only for short periods of time. They are usually transferred to nearby penitentiaries or jails, which are fitted with dedicated female wards. The Galati Pre-Trial Arrest and Detention Center’s staff includes female employees who can ensure security and surveillance in case of female detainees. When there are no female detainees, female agents mostly handle administrative tasks, packages and visitation.

The center’s staff is made up of the manager and 28 agents (6 are female agents), assigned to security and surveillance, escort, rights assurance (packages, visitation) departments.

For transportation purposes, the center has three D category vans at disposal (the maxi-taxi type) and a modified Dacia Logan featuring a ramp and bars. The center is set to receive another of this kind. The center isn’t equipped for video questioning/hearing.

Meals, medical assistance, hygiene

The medical facility is situated on the ground floor, in a chamber measuring 7.10 square meters, equipped with a bed and a medicine cabinet. It does not feature a sanitary facility. The medical staff comprises three nurses and a doctor, who is also the chief of the County Medical Center, which is under the authority of the Medical Directorate of the Defense Ministry and provides services to the Pre-Trial Arrest and Detention Center staff and inmates. There is no permanent medical assistance at the jail. A nurse is present at the center for four hours and a doctor is present for 2 hours on a daily basis. The 112-emergency number is called in case of emergencies. The doctor and nurse the APADOR-CH representatives talked to said that another doctor will be hired at the end of the year.

 All inmates are medically examined upon being taken into custody. The center has a protocol with the Saint Andrew County Hospital, which also ensures medical services for inmates, in case necessary. Dental ailments and more complex health issues are treated at public hospitals. The center doesn’t cover complex dental interventions, inmates pay for those. As medical assistance isn’t provided during nights, the physician and nurses leave the medicine, which is to be distributed during the night, with the guards. According to the medical personnel, there haven’t been any situations when inmates needed medicine and didn’t receive any.

The most common afflictions encountered with inmates are behavior disorders and psychoactive substance addictions. However, the center hasn’t had any cases involving inmates under methadone substitute treatment. In case of withdrawal, procedure requires informing and putting the inmate in touch with the National Antidrug Agency (NAA).

There is no psychologist/psychiatrist available for the prisoners. Primarily, the physicians are the ones who call attention upon a prisoner who might need psychological counseling—he is directed to the psychologist catering to the needs of the center’s staff. In psychiatric instances, inmates are examined at the Galati Military Hospital. For psychiatric cases, inmates are examined at the Galati Military Hospital. Inmates do not receive condoms, because the center manager considers them unnecessary, as all prisoners are male. There has been only one inmate who stated to be homosexual and he was quartered alone in a cell. However, the Association considers it useful to supply inmates with condoms in order to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Upon being taken into custody, prisoners are tested for TBC trough the national healthcare act. No HIV tests are carried out, but there has been one person who stated to be HIV-positive and he was quartered alone in a cell. The center manager stated that a bactericidal sterilization lamp has been purchased for instances of TBC and hepatitis.

Bedding is provided upon entering jail and it is comprised of blankets, bedsheet, pillow and hygiene products. Nevertheless, after talking to some of the inmates, it seems that they received insufficient hygiene products (only paper and soap) or none at all. The center manager stated that oftentimes detainees bring their own products from home but are asked if they also require the products provided by the center. Most stated that they received, upon request, products for cleaning and sanitizing the cells. Some mentioned that the blankets are small and very old, insanitary and they weren’t able to use them. Prisoners have access to one washing machine located in the staff sanitary facility, where prisoners can also dry their clothes.

One of the issues identified by APADOR-CH representatives was regarding hot water. The center currently has two water-heating boilers. Following conversations with the prisoners, inmates on the ground floor said they always have hot water, while inmates on the first floor said they only have hot water for 30 minutes in the morning due to a malfunction in one of the boilers. The center manager stated that all rooms have hot water at all times, except for when the boilers are empty and need to heat water again. He says that in those instances the water is lukewarm, but not cold. Regardless, as it is not clear whether the inmates rightfully complained, or they just didn’t think of checking for hot water later, the center manager revealed that the situation will improve this year because 14 heating stations will be acquired and installed, which will also ensure heating throughout the jail in the winter, as the city’s district heating went bankrupt.

Meals are provided by the Galati Penitentiary and transported with the center vehicle. The inmates with whom the APADOR-CH talked to stated that meals are satisfactory, but they prefer to eat food from home.

Contact with the exterior, other rights

There is a mailbox on the ground floor, in the hallway providing access to the two yards, where inmates have the option to mail their own letters. Prisoners’ correspondence is registered at the registrar’s office. The detainee opens their letters in the presence of the supervisor.

There are two telephone terminals without being separated by an isolation board at the disposal of the prisoners, also on the ground-floor hallway. APADOR-CH considers that placing the telephones on a circulated access corridor, nearby the supervisor’s office, doesn’t provide enough privacy in regard to respecting the prisoners’ right to confidentiality.

The visitation room equipped with a separator is the place where packages are opened by the agent, in the presence of the detainee and the visitor, with the package being handed over through an opening in the separator. Minors benefit form visits on one side of the visitation room, without the separator. There is no room for private visitations and there haven’t been any requests for this kind of visitations. Management mentioned that in case of requests, they will be transferred to units that include this amenity.

The yards (one of 19.89 square meters and the second of 14.94 square meters) are more like walking chambers, as the center manager describes them. These are spaces with cement walls taller than 2 meters, featuring an empty section on the upper part, right under the roof, to facilitate air circulation. The yards are completely covered with a grid and plexiglass, which almost completely prevents detainees from seeing the sky. The Association considers that this is more likely a hermetically sealed space, which doesn’t provide favorable conditions for the prisoners’ walks nor for carrying out any other activities than walking. APADOR-CH recommends a refurbishment and equipping of the yards, perhaps with a sporting device (a basketball hoop, horizontal poles for pull-ups. Additionally, the placement of a clock on the yard wall would be useful. A detainee recently taken into custody was visibly disoriented about everything happening to him and told the APADHOR-CH representatives that since being in jail he never knows what time it is since he only had the time on his cell phone. Walks take place daily, for an hour, per rooms.

The center’s library is situated in the basement and features approximately 100 books (fiction, adventure novels, poetry volumes). The room measures roughly 7 square meters, featuring a small window and a desk. The detainee can request to be brought down to the library or he can ask the police agent for a book he would like to borrow. APADOR-CH representatives did not identify copies of the Penal Code, although the manager said it is one of the most requested books. In fact, one of the detainees stated that he would like to purchase a copy. The smell of fresh paint and the stuffy air indicates that this chamber hasn’t been used very often following the renovation. The Association considers it necessary to replenish the library’s book base, especially with law books.

The center doesn’t feature a store. In the extent to which the inmates have money, once every two weeks each inmate has the right to compile a shopping list of up to 21 liquids, 20 kg of groceries, 6 kg of fruit/vegetables. These are purchased in the city by the staff. There is one functional refrigerator on each floor, at the prisoners’ disposal. The center manager mentioned the fact that there is indeed an issue with this supply method through the staff, because it runs the risk that agents may lose some authority over the inmates and be seen as couriers. There have been discussions about turning to commercial operators, but that’s not possible as the inmates’ budget is unpredictable, and operators impose consistency and stability. Moreover, there is no criteria for selecting a commercial operator, there are no stipulations in this regard. The center manager stated that it would be useful to establish an economic entity or a unitary solution on a national level through a decree.

At the time of the visit, three minors in total were quartered with adults. According to the center manager’s explanation, one of the minors specifically asked for this, while the other two were detained for the same deed and couldn’t be quartered together. According to article 117 from Law 254/2013 regarding the execution of sentences and of measures involving deprivation of liberty ordered by judicial authorities during criminal proceedings, minors must be quartered together and separate from adults.

In the backdrop of the European Parliament elections, the center manager stated that there was an informing process for the prisoners, but no one expressed the willingness to vote. In other years, the center got in touch with BEC (Central Electoral Bureau), submitted the list of persons who wanted to vote and made the ballot box available to the inmates.

Discussions with the inmates

APADHOR-CH visited and talked to inmates from four cells. In one of the ground-floor cells, APADHOR representatives talked to three people, who stated that they were content with the conditions as they were quartered in a renovated cell, they always have running hot water, agents ask them every morning if they need to see the physician, their bed sheets are washed when necessary, they received cleaning and sanitizing products for the cell, and the walk schedule is kept.

In another cell there was only one person who requested to be quartered alone due to health reasons. The detainee was also content with the conditions, except for the lack of hot water, the fact that he can’t purchase cooked food and the small dimensions of the yard. He stated that he received medical treatment when necessary and that he only received paper and soap, without any other hygiene products, upon being taken into custody.

In one of the cells on the first floor there were two people, one of them a minor, at the time of the visit. The minor stated that his rights were explained to him upon arrival and he was examined by the physician. The other inmate stated that conditions at the Galati Pre-Trial Arrest and Detention Center are better compared to other centers and that he gets along well with the minor and regards him as his son. The cells are fitted with a doorbell system that inmates can use to call the supervising agent on the floor, who generally responds quickly to requests.

Other inmates were encountered in the walking chamber. They also stated that they were examined by a physician upon being taken into custody (one of them, a minor, had dental issues and received painkillers until he was to be taken to the dentist—he put in a request for this), they were read their rights upon arrival, the staff displayed a professional attitude. Two prisoners said that they didn’t receive hygiene products, so they had to purchase them.

Procedural matters—handcuffing and body search

When asked by the APADOR-CH representatives regarding the detainees’ handcuffing procedure, the center manager stated that prisoners are cuffed every time they leave the jail (for court and other criminal proceedings), in compliance with the Regulation related to the setup and operation of pre-trial arrest and detention centers, as well as necessary safety measures for these, approved through the Ministry of Internal Affairs Decree nr. 14/2018. The Regulation allows handcuffing “while traveling to judicial authorities or during transfer, as a measure of preventing escape, in thoroughly warranted instances”. The center manager stated that the inmates qualify for these thoroughly warranted instances as most of them are “carrying out some form of measure involving deprivation of liberty ordered based on assessing the: severity of the deed; the manner and circumstances of committing the deed; criminal history and other circumstances regarding the inmate, when taking into account the fact that liberty deprivation is necessary in order to remove any sense of danger toward public security.” Consequently, the Regulation is somewhat lenient with regard to handcuffing.

The shift manager’s chamber, situated on the ground floor, is the one where the body search is carried out on detainees upon arrival. The room features a surveillance camera, same as every corridor and the yards. The center manager stated that the detainee’s privacy and dignity is respected during the body search.

Conclusions and recommendations

The center is evidently different compared to APADOR-CH’s previous visit—recently renovated, modernized sanitary facilities, double-glazed windows, ventilation system installed in the hallway and the cells. Inmates confess that they are content with conditions for the most part.

APADOR-CH appreciates every improvement made as well as the staff’s effort in ensuring detention conditions, while reiterating the recommendations mentioned throughout the report:

  • Telephones to be placed in an area that ensures conversation privacy;
  • Hygiene products to be guaranteed for all detainees upon arrival;
  • Cells to be equipped with a table each;
  • A clock to be placed in the yards;
  • Copies of the Penal Code and Criminal procedure code, as well as other books to be added to the library’s book base;
  • Television sets to be placed in the one-person cells;
  • The yards to be remodeled in order for the roof to feature at least an open portion;
  • The yards to be fitted with minimal sports equipment for physical activity.

And last but not least, APADOR-CH draws attention on this visit as well to an unresolved systematic issue: the limited access to medical services for persons suffering from mental disorders. We remind the Romanian state that solutions must be found to implement the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Ticu v. Romania, where the Court established that the lack of access to medical treatment and services for inmates suffering from mental illnesses constitutes a breach of article 3 of the Convention (the right of not being subjected to torture, punishment and inhumane and degrading treatment).

Dollores Benezic

Livia Popa

Translator: Timea Papp