Report on the visit of the Craiova Penitentiary

Monday - 1 July 2019
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On June 10, 2019, two APADOR-CH representatives visited the Craiova Penitentiary. The most recent visit of APADOR -CH of the Craiova Penitentiary took place in 2014 (this report can be found here). The 2014 visit, was a follow-up visit from the visit in 2012 (the 2012 report can be found here).

 

General information, staff, detention areas

On our last visit, overcrowding was the most significant problem of the Craiova Penitentiary. Currently, this problem has been solved. On the date of our visit, the penitentiary had 675 inmates, serving under all types of holding conditions. 108 inmates were women, and 60 of them were detained in the exterior unit in Ișalnița. Thus, the penitentiary had an occupancy rate of 82%. This is due on, the one hand due to the change of the detention type, and on the other hand, to the law on sentence reduction. Consequently, the number of prisoners was reduced by half compared to 2017, when the facility detained 1120 prisoners.

However, the prison management stated that all units need reorganizing because the 4 sqm per detainee standard still cannot be observed. The refitting of the existing areas is difficult to achieve as it can only be done by building an additional floor; lateral expansion is out of the question because the penitentiary is next to a school. The full capacity complying with the 4 sqm standard would be of 462 inmates (without the exterior section), and the penitentiary currently holds 615 (not counting the exterior section). With this in mind, in April 2019, the prison administration sent a concept and design brief to the Romanian Prison Administration Authority for the construction of a new pavilion in the Ișalnița off premises section, with 80 new detainment places. The completion of the new section will take 3 years, and the Norwegian Financial Mechanism ensures the funding. The aim of this is to move the entire women’s section of the Craiova Penitentiary to Ișalnița to offer better detainment conditions for them and to increase the square footage of the penitentiary.

The detainees are held in 8 on premises sections (one of which is for women) and an off-premises section in Ișalnița. It is the only detainment facility for women in the South West of Romania (covering Dolj, Olt, Mehendinti, Arges and Valcea) and covers all detainment regimes. The penitentiary also holds transit detainees to be sent to the judiciary authorities in the Olt and Dolj counties. At the moment of our visit, the provisional detention section held 26 persons.

The prison mentioned that compared to our 2014 visit, the Ișalnița section was supplemented with 24 places (2016) and all annual current maintenance works have been carried out.

Regarding the personnel, the organisation’s positions are 80% occupied. The prison management declared that this deficit is clearly felt, especially within the police escort department. There are 21 open positions for offices (out of the 93 of the employment chart) and 87 open positions for agents (out of the 432 positions in the employment chart). The prison management declared that they are waiting for new funding and the list of the hiring freeze (due to legislative reasons).

The prison management admitted they have special task forces, but they are only used to discourage any potential riots and only when the prisoners are transported off the premises. During their visit the APADOR -CH employees noticed the presence of the special task forces inside the penitentiary, but they were not wearing any special masks or hard hats, although their identification number was visible on their vests.

The penitentiary has rooms with different capacity ranging from 2 person rooms (for inmates under maximum security) to rooms for 12 per even 30 persons (in the provisional detention section).

According to the documents provided by the prison administration, the penitentiary has 20 walking courts, for each section, with an area of 30 sqm to 182 sqm as well as a football court. The Ișalnița section has 4 walking courts of 100 sqm, 1152 sqm, 52 sqm and 53 sqm.

Medical assistance

The medical staff consists of 3 general practitioners, 11 nurses and 1 psychiatrist. The doctors work in shifts, from Monday to Friday from 7.30-19.00. A nurse is permanently on the premises. Compared to 2014 there is no more pneumologist, radiologist, dentist or dental technician. The dentist from the Craiova Juvenile Detention Centre comes as needed. The penitentiary has a well-equipped dentist’s practice, which even has a dental prosthesis surgery (however the dental technician died recently).

The infirmary even has 3 TBC quarantine units, but these are not used any longer since there have not been any TBC cases lately. Any cases are sent to Hospital Penitentiaries such cases such as Mioveni, Jilava Rahova. At the time of our visit, these quarantine units were used as storage areas.

The most common conditions are cardiac conditions, followed by psychiatric conditions and chronic conditions. There were no records of women with gynaecological issues, but such consults take place at one of the Hospital Penitentiaries.

The doctor declared that there are no HIV infected inmates, but also that they do not carry out HIV testing. Thus, nobody can confirm with any certainty that there are no HIV cases. Furthermore, the doctor declared that there are not any detainees suffering from STDs. The doctor said that the penitentiary does have condoms, but these are only given upon request. APADOR-CH recommends that the condoms are put in easily accessible places since the detainees do not dare to ask for them from the doctor’s office. Furthermore, the penitentiary needs to be supplied with rapid HIV testing kits, and to test the detainees both when they enter the penitentiary and regularly if they agree to such testing.

On the matter of drug users, the penitentiary only offers psychiatric consultations to them. There was only one person receiving methadone treatment in the previous year, treatment provided by the Rahova Penitentiary since the Craiova Penitentiary does not stock up methadone. There were three detainees receiving dialysis at the time of our visit; they are taken to the County Hospital to receive treatment.

There are approximately 30 medical consults per day. Upon request, the detainees may seek medical help from other hospitals.

The supply of medical products is done one a year from the Mioveni Hospital, but the doctor declared that there are sometimes delays in the supply or that some of the ordered medicine is missing. At the moment of our visit, there were two pharmacists at the penitentiary pharmacy who both described the supply as adequate.

There were 78 registered aggressions in the past six months, and 50 cases with associated injuries. For each aggression, the doctor fills out a standard form and anatomical sketches of the injuries, report this to the prosecutor’s office, and the patients are sent to the Forensic Medicine Section.

APADOR -CH welcomes the fact that the penitentiary managed to hire a psychiatrist in 2019. There had not been any psychiatrist on the premises since 2016, and the penitentiary moved the detainees to one of the Hospital-Prisons, which was quite worrying considering the high rate of mental health issues among the inmates.

According to the doctor, approximately 100 inmates receive psychiatric treatment (approximately 14% of inmates). The most frequent mental health issues are anti-social behaviour, approx. 70%, followed by sleep disorders and adjustment issues. To stop smuggling and voluntary ingestion, all psychiatric medication is given only in front of the psychiatrist. He offers the medication every morning and also talks to the detainees, identifying new cases in need of psychiatric care. He offers psychiatric consults daily for each prison section for all inmates who place a request in advance and for all inmates who call him (if he sees that they need help).

 

Food and the food preparation area

Similar to our last visit, the strong point of this penitentiary is the fresh bread made on the premises. The menu for Friday, according to the menu handed out to our Association’s representative was: breakfast – tea, bread, biscuits, cheese, boiled egg, lunch – beef sour soup and kidney bean paste, dinner: potato stew with pork rinds and with separate meals for all the inmates with special dietary requirements.

APADOR -CH welcomes the fact that the food preparation is done by specialised personnel (both technical personnel and supervising personnel). According to prison management, this helped a lot in reorganising the space and related activities. 20 inmates work in the canteen and other 10 in the bread making section.

The canteen is equipped with 10 pressure cookers, ventilation system, food storage area, refrigeration room for the meat, changing facilities for the inmates, and meat cutting area. The food preparation area was overall clean, but the ventilation system could not cope thus it was scorching inside, with condensed water and steam dripping down the walls, which made the inmates’ activity that much harder and under subpar conditions for their health. Even the prison management admitted that they were not happy with this ventilation system.

The store on the premises was well stocked on the date of our visit. All prices were visible, for example, ꓽ still water – 2.80 lei/l, shampoo between 12 and 20 lei, coffee – starting with 3.20 lei per package. According to the data provided by the prison management, there is a supervisory committee which regularly checks the prices of the store on premises. In the past, this commission has notified the company running the store, and following this notification they lowered some prices.

 

Educational and social reintegration department

The educational and social reintegration department consists of the psycho-social department and the educational/reintegration department.

The psychosocial department is made up of 4 licensed psychologists and 3 social workers, but the staff declared that at least two social workers are still needed. Every Monday and Tuesday, the psychologists carry out the regular and final assessment of the detainees and therapy programs according to their needs. 12 such programs have been implemented so far (a program aimed at reducing impulsivity, a program destined for sexual offenders, a program for aiding inmates with mental health issues). An average of 12 detainees took part in these programs. On average, one psychologist holds two individual consultations a day. At the moment of our visit, the arrival of a suicidal person was announced. This person was to be evaluated by the psychologist on call who would take all the subsequent necessary measures. Later the psychiatrist will also be informed, and if treatment is necessary, the section head, as well as the detainees who form a support group to monitor persons prone to suicide, will also be involved.

The social workers offer social programs based on the guidelines of the Romanian National Prison Authority on parental relationships, parole and civic education. 225 detainees have been included in these programs. The social workers showed these guidelines dated 2010 to the APADOR -CH representative, who concluded that these need to be refreshed and adapted to the realities of today in order to attract more detainees.

One major problem mentioned by the psycho-social services was that 8% of the detainees are functional illiterates, making the work even harder. According to the social workers, a mandatory schooling program in the prison system would ease the reintegration of released detainees.

The Educational Service is made up of 16 educators, and each educator works with approximately 80 detainees. The educators confirmed the percentage (8%) of functional illiterates and declared that they have a literacy program with short-term integrated activities (such as simple mathematics, logic or card making) to avoid the isolation of these inmates from those who have access to a broader spectrum of activities. On average, seven detainees take part in the educational programs because the majority prefers to work. Overall for the entire semester, a detainee takes part in three or four educational activities and is enrolled in a reintegration program.

The teachers taking part in these programs are employees of the Tudor Arghezi High Scholl in Craiova and not by the penitentiary. They hold primary and lower secondary education classes during the week and upper secondary classes (i.e. 9th and 10th grade) on weekends.

According to the information provided by the prison management, at the end of the 2017-2018 school year, the enrolment was as follows:

  • 62 persons were enrolled in primary education classes, 22 women and 23 persons graduated out of which 12 were women.
  • 39 persons were enrolled in lower secondary education classes out of which 18 graduated.
  • 44 persons were enrolled in higher secondary education classes (9th and 10th grade) out of which 16 graduated.

In the 2018-2019 school year, the enrollment was as follows:

  • 43 persons were enrolled in primary education classes, out of which 19 were women
  • 24 persons were enrolled in lower secondary education classes
  • 28 persons were enrolled in higher secondary education classes (9th and 10th grade)

The Orthodox priest is an employee of the prison and has a chapel in the same building as the classrooms. Upon request, the members with other religious affiliations or religious associations may access this chapel. The Romanian Association of Christian Police officers visits the penitentiary often and organises meetings with the detainees.

The penitentiary also works together with drama groups from Craiova and even took part in a theatre festival for inmates. An improvisational theatre play took place in the penitentiary’s festivities room which was specially designed for such educational activities.

The gym is inside the penitentiary and is equipped with seven fitness machines and one ping pong table. The gym is clean, and the machines were in good condition. The prisoners come here in pairs of eight, depending on their detention regimen.

Furthermore, the penitentiary also has a very rich library. Compared to our visit in 2012, the penitentiary library holds now more than 5000 books, including 1000 textbooks sent by the Romanian Prison Administration Authority. The monthly average of book requests is of approximately 40 books. The responsible for the library mentioned that there are five copies of the Romanian Penal Code, but all of them were currently in the quarantine section at the time of our visit.

 

Work

According to the data provided by the prison management, from the start of 2019 up to the present day seven services contracts have been concluded with external beneficiaries together with voluntary work contract (special workforces – natural and legal persons).

On average, 199 detainees took part in labour activities out of which:

  • The average number of detainees taking part in paid work – 90,
  • The average number of detainees working off premises – 87,
  • The average number of detainees working in services and state services on the premises – 3,
  • The average number of detainees used for prison maintenance – 106,
  • The average number of detainees used for voluntary work – 3.

The income generated by the work of the detainees until 10.06.2019 was of 909,825.00 Lei, according to the data provided by the prison management.

Compared to our 2012, the prison carpentry workshop is no longer in use due to lack of funding and all the equipment is left to decay.

The prison management stated that the workforce demand is higher than what the penitentiary can offer, because not all detainees can fulfil the workforce selection criteria of Decision No. 500165/2017 on Approval of the Instructions of Employment Conditions of Detainees (“qualification, skills, age, health condition, security measures as well as the professional qualification for workforce programs”). 

 

Visits and mail

The visitation sector was constructed in 2010 using the prison’s funds, and prison management is very proud of it. It has a waiting area in the hallway decorated with A3-sized posters displaying the internal regulations of the prison, the rights and obligations, allowed/ forbidden objects. Furthermore, the visiting section is fitted with a video surveillance system, and the supervisor watches the images from a separated room. Moreover, the supervisor’s office has a sizeable tinted-glass window which enables them to supervise the persons in the separated rooms, thus ensuring their confidentiality.

The hallway is followed by the entrance to the visitation room with nine separated areas, to the visitation room without any separators but with six tables, a mother-child facility which can also be used by foster caregivers made with the support of the church, and to the rooms for conjugal visits. The visitation time is 2 hours. An overview of the records showed an average of 50 visits per day.

There are two rooms for conjugal visits: the first one has a telephone, a refrigerator and TV set and is also very clean, while the other one is barely lit and does not have a TV set. The prison officials stated that they offer toiletries for conjugal visits. However, no toiletries were present on the day of our visit.

This part of the building also holds a videoconferencing room for video conferences with the family, fitted with a video camera and headphones. This room can also be used for video conferences with the courts; however, this is very uncommon, because the courts are not very open to this option. The system was once used for the Finnish police but also with the Romanian Prison Administration Authority.

The package room is fitted with a hatch door, and the packages are opened in the presence of the detainees and their visitors. The maximum allowance for a package is 10 kg for food products, 6kg for fruits and vegetables and 20 l of water/soft drinks. Foods that need heating are not accepted.

The correspondence of the detainees is recorded in a register – name of the sender and the receiver. According to the documents provided by the prison, 6155 letters were sent in the time frame between 01.01.2019 and 10.06.2019.

The judge for the supervision of the deprivation of liberty

The judge for the supervision of the deprivation of liberty has their office in the administrative wing of the penitentiary and is helped by a clerk. The judge stated that most of the claims are related to sentence reduction and prison conditions. Most of the detainees requesting financial compensation instead of a sentence reduction. If in 2017 there were almost 60 cases of food refusal per year, now that the current director has taken over, they are around five per year, but the judge considers that these are just superficial. Overall there are 630 complaints per year. The detainees usually submit a request to see the judge or write letters to him. 

Regarding the discipline of the detainees, 30 events with little significance have been recorded from a height the beginning of this year up to the date of our visit. 243 disciplinary sanctions have been applied and 615 rewards. Overall the penitentiary’s representatives declared that the atmosphere is more relaxed now since the number of detainees has decreased. The last suicide took place in 2017, and self-mutilation, as well as incidents between prisoners, have significantly decreased. 

 

Women’s section

The women’s section is made of on-premises section (Section 1) where 48 women are detained and the off-premises Ișalnița section with 60 women. Section 1 is a wing with all windows facing the courtyard to avoid any connection with the men’s sections. The women’s section holds all detainment regimens. The Association could not help but notice that the same problem persists since 2012, i.e. all the rooms for different detention regimes are on the same section, thus making it impossible to observe the procedures on detention regimens. Although the women in the open prison regime and those from the semi-open prison regime benefit from the right of having their room doors open during the day, these are locked every time other detainees must be moved out of the room for different reasons. 22 female agents guard the women.

The 48 women are detained in seven rooms. The room sizes vary between 7.03 sqm to 28 sqm. Rooms visited by the APADOR -CH representatives: ꓽ Room 1 semi-open regime, 12 beds, 12 female detainees in 26.52 sqm (7.14 sqm bathroom), Room 6 – closed regime, 10 beds, 7 female detainees in 28 sqm (7.44 sqm bathroom). The bathrooms are fitted with one or two toilets, depending on the room size, with separate showers and sink. Each room has a storage area for foodstuff, with an area of 0.45 sqm to 3.84 sqm. Furthermore, all the rooms have plasma TVs, phone and dining tables and chairs.

The APADOR -CH representatives, could sense the overcrowding in these sections. Even though these were not occupied at their full capacity and the third row of beds had been removed, the remaining beds still occupied much room. According to the data provided by the penitentiary, the women’s section has 54 installed beds, although the maximum capacity is of 31. Natural lighting was insufficient, and the inmates always kept the light on.

They declared they are generally pleased by the conditions and by the personnel. Furthermore, they declared that hot water runs for three hours a day, they receive sufficient toiletries every month, and the food was satisfactory. Furthermore, they mentioned that they take part in classes and physical activities whenever they want, and one detainee recently took a psychology class while another took ecology classes. Medical assistance is ensured; one person receiving dialysis confirmed that she is taken to receive her treatment regularly.

The female detainees have to yards, 39 sqm and 64.5 sqm. The section also has a laundry room fitted a washing machine where the detainees can wash their clothes. There is also an information panel on the hallway (showing the visitation program, rights and obligations, etc.).

 

Detention rooms for men

Male detainees are divided according to their regime as follows: 120 in provisional detention, 26 in quarantine, 72 under maximum security, 325 under closed regime, 14 under semi-open regime and 17 in open regime. The rooms in which the detainees are held range from 65 sqm for the rooms with 30 beds, an average of 30 sqm for the rooms with 12 beds, an average of 7 sqm for the maximum-security rooms with two beds.

As an example, the most crowded section is section 3 (90% occupancy rate), which comprises the quarantine rooms, the rooms for detainees in provisional detention and the rooms for detainees under closed regime. The total surface area of these rooms is 339 sqm for 138 detainees (although the maximum number of beds would be just 80), as well as sections 5 (93% occupancy rate) and section 5 b (100% occupancy rate) – rooms with closed regime, with a total room area of 379 sqm for 135 detainees. Thus, there is only 2.5 sqm per detainee.

The APADOR -CH representatives, visited the following sections: provisional section, observation quarantine section, closed regime section and the maximum-security section. All the rooms have TVs and telephones, storage area for foodstuffs, dining tables and chairs, bathrooms with sinks, one, two or three separate showers and one or two separate toilets, depending on the room size.

 

Provisional detention and observation – quarantine sections

In the provisional detention section, the APADOR -CH representatives visited room number 18 with 30 beds, where 25 detainees were kept (65 sqm net area). Overcrowding was evident, there natural light was insufficient, and the rooms lacked fresh air. The detainees in provisional detention stated that the food was acceptable, that they receive meat every day, that they have hot water, weekly access to the gym, and received all the medical attention and medication needed. Moreover, they declared that the products in the shop on premises were satisfactory and that the prices were reasonable. Their main complaint was the lack of a refrigerator. The prison management mentioned that currently, they are unable to install refrigerators in these rooms due to the configuration of these rooms, but that they are seeking future options.

In room 20 – quarantine (22.95 sqm) the detainees declared that they were happy with the conditions. Again, this room had insufficient natural light and stuffy air.

This section has three courtyards (57 sqm, 104 sqm, 166 sqm). The detainees who were in the courtyard at the time of our visit also mentioned that the conditions are good and that they took part in multiple activities and classes.

The section also has a dining room, with 11 tables. The cook serves the food through a separator. There are instructions for washing hand hung on the wall, together with a whiteboard for the educational activities.

The Craiova Penitentiary has implemented an info-kiosk system, but the one tested by the APADOR -CH representatives, was out of order.

 

Closed regime

The men under closed regime occupy sections 4 and 5 set in a building resembling a “closed horseshoe”. Section four has an occupancy rate of 47%, with 47 detainees on 303 sqm net area. On the other hand, as mentioned earlier, this is one of the most crowded sections.

The APADOR -CH representatives, visited room 5.37 (12 beds, 11 persons, net area of 31 sqm) and room 5.43 (8 beds, 8 persons, net area of 22.87 sqm). The detainees declared that they are satisfied with the conditions, except for the fact that there is no refrigerator. Moreover, they mentioned that they wished they could get a professional qualification while serving their sentence.

The rooms in these sections were generally clean, with clean air and had sufficient lighting. APADOR -CH appreciates the fact that these rooms have a folder containing legal information (rights, obligations, internal regulations) which the inmates can consult at any time and suggests the distribution of these folders in all other rooms if these are not available already. The detainees confirmed that these folders are very useful.

 

Maximum-security regime

Detainees under maximum security occupy a semi-circular building in sections 6 and 7, but the latter was unoccupied at the time of our visit. Section 6 has three sectors and 56 rooms with an average net area of 6 sqm (and 2 sqm for the bathroom) with two beds, holding two persons.

The APADOR -CH representatives, visited sections 6B and 6C – maximum security. The detainees did not have any complaintsꓽ they received the medical care as needs, go in the courtyard every day, do not have any issues with the personnel and the food was good.

 

Conclusions and recommendations

Following our visit to the Craiova Penitentiary APADOR -CH can see a real improvement regarding overcrowding. Our organisation appreciates the visible improvements made by the prison management since our last visit in 2014 and the fact that they try to make the space visually appealing by painting the buildings in blue and white, putting flowers in the sections and the overall cleanliness of the prison.

APADOR-CH reiterates the recommendations made in our report

  • the addition of refrigerators in the rooms,
  • placement of condoms in easily accessible areas and the purchase of rapid HIV testing kits,
  • the remediation of the ventilation system in the food preparation area.

Nonetheless, the Association appreciates the fact that the Craiova Penitentiary has its own psychiatrist, considering that the availability of psychiatric services in the penitentiary system is an endemic problem. Notwithstanding APADOR -CH recommends that the prison hires at least one more psychiatrist considering the existing workload. We reiterate the fact that the Romanian state must find solutions to implement the ECHR decision in the case Țicu v. Romania, where the Court ascertained the lack of access to psychiatric treatment and care for the detainees with mental health issues. This lack of treatment is a violation of art. 3 of the Convention (the right not to be subjected to torture, inhumane punishments or inhumane and degrading treatment).

Other conclusions and recommendations are included in the report.

Livia Popa                                         

Georgiana Gheorghe

Traducător Cristina Badea-Gutu