Report on the visit to the Arad Penitentiary

Thursday - 7 November 2013
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Report on the visit to the Arad Penitentiary


On November 7, 2013, two representatives of APADOR-CH visited the central unit of the Arad Penitentiary. It was the first time the Association visited this facility.


1. General considerations


The central unit of the penitentiary was a new complex of buildings, started in 1994 and fully completed in 2011. The first detention building was inaugurated in 1998. The unit was located near an industrial area of the city and had a generous property allowing for many exercise yards and sports fields, both for detainees and for the staff.


The Arad Penitentiary was categorized a high-security facility, where most detainees served their sentences under the closed and maximum security regimes. The Arad Penitentiary also had an external section holding detainees under the open and semi-open regimes, as well as persons on preventive arrest who had been put on trial and therefore transferred out of police custody.


The Arad Penitentiary also had a downtown unit, in an old building where the women’s section held 145 detainees at the time of the visit. This section was not visited by the representatives of the Association.


The prison farm was still functional, raising cows and pigs for meat. It had its own slaughter house, where some repairs had been made but still more capital works were necessary. The investment was not justified, given the costs and the distance from the farm to the slaughter house. Detainees worked a 4.5 hectares vegetable garden and the crops were used to prepare the prison food.


The penitentiary obtained substantial revenue, that was used to make various purchases. In 2012, the facility acquired a 40 places bus to transport detainees; in 2013, it acquired a 16 place bus for detainees and in 2014, it planned to purchase a 22 place bus, for the same purpose. Following these investments, the penitentiary would have covered its necessities for transportation. The same source paid for a video surveillance system (covering the whole facility, even the kitchen area). For the future, the prison management planned to purchase a mini security system with centralized lock-up for the control room and for the kitchen area. Some of the revenues were used for current repairs. Future revenues were planned to cover the building of a new external section, on the penitentiary grounds, comprising 9,000 square meters of production sections – but no detention spaces.


2. Population, detention conditions, personnel


The central unit of the Arad Penitentiary held only male detainees, most of them serving under the closed and maximum security regimes.


At the time of the visit, the total prison population numbered 996 detainees, of whom 851 men and 145 women. Male detainees were categorized as follows: 120 – maximum security, 637 – closed regime, 30 – open regime, 1 – semi-open regime. The remaining 20 men were still under observation/in quarantine, while 43 were on preventive arrest. The 145 women held at the external section were categorized as follows: 10 – maximum security, 36 – closed regime,            25 – open regime, 57 – semi-open regime, 5 under observation/in quarantine and 12 on preventive arrest. At the time of the visit, the facility also held two minors, one convicted by the first instance court and the second on preventive arrest. The central unit held 821 detainees and the external section 175.


The total detention space at Arad Penitentiary was 5,560.5 sq m, meaning an average of 4.04 sq m per detainee; that meant there was no overcrowding at the central unit. The capacity of the facility was 1,422 and the average population was around 1,000 detainees. The Association noted that the external section was overcrowded: the women section provided 2.92 sq m of space per detainee, while the male section provided 2.66 sq m.


Detention conditions differed from one room to another. The general impression was that in some places sanitization and pest control would have been necessary. Most spaces were renovated and clean, but there were also rooms, like E.6.21, where persons on preventive arrest complained of bedbugs and where walls had not been painted in a long while. Natural light and ventilation were generally satisfactory and hot water was provided twice a week. The representatives of APADOR-CH noted that detainees went to the showers four at a time, without any separation system, so their right to privacy was infringed. Another problem was the advanced state of decay of the mattresses. The Association recommends that separating curtains be installed in the showers and that all worn-out mattresses be urgently replaced.


The number of employees was 479, although the personnel scheme had 531 positions. Most of the staff, 340, worked for the security and penitentiary regime department (which had 355 positions), 14 worked for the medical department (on 23 existing positions) and 25 worked for the social and educational department (which had 35 positions). The priest position was frozen following budget restrictions, so a contract was signed with the Orthodox Metropolitanate for a part time job, paid from the facility’s own revenues. APADOR-CH points out that the orthodox religious service offered by the prison may be considered as discriminating by followers of other faiths, such as Catholic, Greek-Catholic and other officially acknowledged denominations, who could not benefit from religious services paid by penitentiary.


3. Medical care


The Arad Penitentiary had two offices for general practice and a dental office, all appropriately equipped, and 14 medical workers, of whom 13 were employed by the facility. The 14th person was a dentist who worked on contract. The employees were two doctors and 12 nurses. The GPs saw an average of 80-100 patients per day, of whom 10 were emergency cases. The number of daily consultations is too high for the number of doctors, so we recommend hiring more doctors in order to cover the medical needs of detainees. Detainees who talked to the representatives of APADOR-CH said that in general they had no complaints about health care, except the fact that dental treatments didn’t always solve the existing problems. The governor said that he had approved the request of a detainee to be treated by his personal dentist, who had come to the facility for that purpose, and another detainee who had an implant had been allowed to go and see his dentist for a check-up.


According to the doctors, the most frequent health problems were chronic illnesses (especially digestive ones), followed by mental conditions (about 130 detainees had been diagnosed with psychiatric conditions and other 100 had undiagnosed disorders). The medical staff said that one patient developed schizophrenia during detention and, upon release, the doctors worked with the family to have him transferred directly to a Neuro-Psychic Rehabilitation Center. APADOR-CH asks for all detainees who appear to have mental troubles to be examined by specialists, who should decide for each individual case what is the best course of treatment, whether it requires medication and when the patient should be examined again.


The medical office distributed free condoms, but they were not placed in visible, accessible places – detainees had to ask the doctor for one, when they needed. There was one place at the library where condoms were placed for anyone to take, but at the time of the visit there were none left. The Association asks the penitentiary to install a condom box near the medical office, so that any detainee could pick a condom without surveillance or recording. The doctors said that there were no drug-related medical problems because cannabis and ethno-botanic were the main drug used in the area and they did not create serious health problems. In 2012, a detainee died of a myocardial infarction and in 2013 a 90 years old man died of respiratory arrest.


The medical staff said there were no problems with the delivery/deduction of medication from the Colibaşi Hospital and that the Arad County Hospital cooperated well with the facility, never refusing to admit detainees and sending the ambulance whenever emergencies arose.


4. Food for detainees


The Arad Penitentiary had a kitchen that serviced both the central unit and the Arad police custody facility. The only problem there was the mould and damp ceiling. Otherwise, the rooms, storage areas and kitchenware were clean and well maintained.


The lunch menu on the day of the visit consisted of potato soup and meat stew for diet, or cabbage soup and baked beans with sausage for the rest of the prison population. The sausages were portioned so that each detainee could receive a piece. A special menu, including peasant soup and vegetable stew, was prepared for diabetes patients. For dinner, the menu included Transylvanian stew pork scraps or potato stew and milk pasta for diet.


Most detainees had their meals in their room, although each section had a space where meals could be served and which was currently used to store food before serving and dirty dishes, or in some cases was turned into a small club for detainees. APADOR-CH suggests that canteens should be organized in the respective spaces, so that meals could be served there, alternately with club activities.


5. The activity of the psycho-social assistance and education department, other activities


The social and educational department employed 25 people, of whom 6 psychologists. The number of psychologist was remarkable, especially as all detainees interviewed said they either had been tested by psychologists or had taken part in the programs they ran.


The department ran a drug prevention campaign entitled “Flight becomes fall when drugs break your wings” (in cooperation with CEPCA and the Arad School Inspectorate) during which detainees were able to share their experiences as drug users with high-school students. Another activity was the participation of 10 male detainees to a theatre project, The Adams Family, staged at the Multi Art Theatre Festival in 2013.


Sport activities were permanent, trying to include as many detainees as possible. The penitentiary had four gyms with fitness equipment, 6 tennis halls and two playfields. An in-house football championship had been organized, with the participation of 205 detainees.


A second qualification course for plant farmers was completed, as part of the SOP HRD project “Consolidating the functional capacity of integrated social services for detainees and former addicts for labor market reinsertion by developing innovative tools and work methods and formative programs”. Of the 14 detainees registered, 13 completed the course and one was declared unable to follow.


The facility organized instruction activities, run by teachers from Avram Iancu School and from Iuliu Moldovan Technological High-School. 100 detainees were registered for the classes: 25 for primary school, 40 for gymnasium and 35 for high-school. One detainee had completed his second years at Vasile Goldiş Western University.


The central unit of the Arad Penitentiary had a very well endowed library, counting 12,392 books, of which 2,123 at the external section, and was regularly used by 184 detainees. The unit also had a paining studio where art classes took place, including drawing, painting, and traditional crafts. All 4 buildings had rooms properly equipped for educational activities, including a club for minors, containing specific educational materials for teenagers.


Exercise yards, 15 in all, were generous in size. Two basketball/football fields were also available. The 7 exercise yards for maximum security detainees were located on top of the buildings and appropriately equipped, including with payphones. But since they were not covered, they could not be used in bad weather.


APADOR-CH considers that installing covers above the maximum security exercise yards, which can be done with minimal costs, would allow them to be used on rainy days or in snow as well.


6. Work for detainees


The Arad Penitentiary had work contracts with 12 companies. At the time of the visit, 408 of the 996 detainees worked and 270 of them received payment for their services. The employment rate was high compared to other facilities.


130 detainees worked inside the facility: 104 for services at the central unit, 25 for services at the external section, 5 at the farm, one as a help to another detainee, 4 as guards and 3 at the garage. Most of the detainees who received salaries (139) worked on contract for a shoe company, sewing parts of the products together. They worked in their rooms, at the central unit.


7. Other aspects


The Arad Penitentiary managed the Training and Qualification Center for Employees of the Penitentiary System, a 3040 sq m building located near downtown Arad, in former Palace of Justice. The Training Center was equipped with all necessary conditions for the preparation and re-qualification of the personnel: conference hall, classrooms, library, gyms, teacher’s lounge, medical office, offices for trainers, 23 accommodation rooms for course attendants with a total of 95 beds, common lavatories and shower rooms, kitchen, canteen, food storage rooms.


The Centre was closed because no courses were taking place, but the maintenance costs for the building were covered by the penitentiary’s own resources. APADOR-CH supports the proposal of the prison management that a separate budget line should be allocated for the maintenance of the building, covering all the required expenditure for the Center, even if the management is attributed to the Arad facility. APADOR-CH also suggests that the prison management should take into account the possibility of partially using that space to accommodate detainees under the open and semi-open regimes.


Conclusions and recommendations


Following their visit, the representatives of APADOR-CH recommend:


·        Reducing overcrowding at the external section by reorganizing spaces used for other purposes;

·        Passing all detainees who seem mentally disturbed through a psychiatric examination for diagnosis and treatment;

·        Partial covering of all exercise yards, so they can be used during rain or snow as well.


Other conclusions and recommendations have been included in the report.


Nicoleta Popescu                                                       Cristinel Buzatu