On September 13, 2012, two representatives of APADOR-CH visited the Ploieşti Penitentiary and one of its external sections, Movila Vulpii. The previous visit had taken place in 2002.
1. General aspects – location and detention regimes
The Ploieşti Penitentiary consists of a central unit, the Rudului Street unit, located in the city center, two external sections, Berceni and Movila Vulpii, and a farm (GAZ), the latest three located in adjacent villages. The Penitentiary holds adult male detainees in semi-open and open regime (according to the prison management, the average age was 36-38). All detainees serving sentences under the semi-open regime were held in the central unit (two sections on two floors), while the external units and the farms held exclusively open regime detainees. The rules that differentiate the detention regime were observed, with one exception: the doors of the rooms in the semi-open regime sections were locked at noon for one hour and a half.
According to the governor, compliance with the open and semi-open regime regulations had created a calm environment, without any violent incidents. The only incident had taken place in July 2011, when two groups of detainees from rival clans had a fight resulting in injuries, but without serious consequences. For safety, it was then decided that known members of rival clans should be placed on different sections and taken out for exercise at different hours. Over the last few years, there had been no deaths, suicides or escapes.
The governor said that the prison did not have a special intervention unit (the so-called masked squad), but the staff was instructed to act in high-risk situations.
There were no detainees registered as posing a “high degree of risk”, because everyone who created problems was transferred to the Mărgineni Penitentiary, where detainees were held under the closed and high-security regimes. In fact, between the two penitentiaries, Ploieşti şi Mărgineni, there was a constant exchange of detainees whose regime had changed. The Penitentiary had two transport vans for the transfer of detainees – an old one and a modern one.
2. Population, accommodation, hygiene, staffing
The Ploieşti Penitentiary held a total number of 845 detainees, of whom 653 in the central unit, 80 at the Berceni section, 107 at the Movila Vulpii section and 5 at the farm.
The total surface of detention spaces (excluding lavatories and storage) was 1260.04 square meters. It meant that, if occupied at the optimal density, according to CPT recommendations of 4 sq m per person, the capacity of the prison would have been 315 detainees (more precisely, there should have been no more than 321,79 beds installed). On the day of the visit, the occupation rate according to the CPT standard was 268.5%, every detainee having about 1.5 square meters of space. The occupation rate was 122% even by the old standard, of 6 cubic meters per detainee.
The worst situation in terms of overcrowding was at the central unit, where the 653 detainees shared a total surface of 911.75 square meters, that is 1.39 sq m per person. Worse than that, the limited space did not allow the installation of a sufficient number of beds, so there were fewer beds than detainees and some of them had to share. For instance, at the time of the visit, the 31 detainees in room 31, section II, measuring 32.24 square meters, shared 24 beds.
Overcrowding led to the aggravation of the discomfort caused by other deficiencies of cramped space, such as poor hygiene.
Detention rooms in the central unit had their own lavatories, which included one Turkish toilet, one sink and one shower. Hot water was available only in the evening, for two hours, and not quite every day. The hot water did not last enough for all detainees to shower. The unit also had an insalubrious common lavatory (with mould on the walls and rusty pipes) where detainees had access once a week. The lavatories at Movila Vulpii were larger, the common lavatory was in an acceptable state and detainees had permanent access to it. Moreover, a lavatory was built outside, in the yard, using solar energy to produce hot water and proving extremely useful in summer time.
Prior to the visit by APADOR-CH, the Penitentiary had problems with a cockroach and bedbug pest, but both the governor and the detainees said they were able to get rid of them after a thorough extermination campaign.
With regard to detention space, APADOR-CH maintains that the 1999 recommendation of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) should be observed, that is each detainee should be provided 4 square meters of space and 8 cubic meters of air. APADOR-CH asks that the 4 sq m/detainee norm should be mandatory for all detainees, irrespective of their detention regime and reminds that Romanian was repeatedly sanctioned by the ECHR for detention conditions. (In a recent judgment of the ECHR, in the case of Iacov Stanciu v. Romania, it was decided that prison overcrowding was a recurrent problem and that overcrowding, lack of hygiene and inadequate medical treatment represented for the plaintiff a degrading and inhuman treatment).
The Ploieşti Penitentiary had 200 employees. Of them, 151 worked directly with detainees. Security was provided by 135 employees (14 officers and 121 agents); two doctors (a GP and a dentist) and seven nurses were employed at the medical ward; and there were seven employees in the social and educational department. A teacher, employed by the County School Inspectorate also worked with the detainees. The Association considers that for 845 detainees, the number of medical and social-educational staff was insufficient.
3. The activity of the psycho-social assistance and education department, leisure activities
The social-cultural service of the Ploieşti Penitentiary was run by a jurist and employed six other persons: a psychologist, a social assistant, two educator officers, one sport monitor and one technical agent. The personnel scheme of the department included 17 positions.
The insufficient personnel for such a high number of detainees made it impossible to involve all of the latter in cultural and educational activities.
– Every day from 12.00 to 13.00 – religion hour – representatives of the various denominations came and held lectures in front of the detainees. Up to 120 detainees attended these lectures every week.
– Various courses: anti-drug; professional counseling (in co-operation with the Human Development Center in Bucureşti); Retro-verso – role games with psychologists and social assistants; professional reorientation courses (with the County Labor Agency) such as welding or hothouse plant growing – in preparation for working at Movila Vulpii external section.
– Once every 3 months, 20 detainees went on an outing, to see museums, the zoo or theatre plays.
– Literacy program “The Second Chance”, for detainees unable to read or write.
– The universe of knowledge – history, geography, literature.
The chief of the department said that every week, about 300 detainees participated in one activity or another.
Aside from the programs run by the social and educational service, detainees had the exercise yards. At the central unit, there was a separate yard for each section, where they were able to stay as long as they wanted while the rooms were unlocked (that is between 7-12.30 and 14-22). One of the yards had a thermoplastic cover and fitness equipment. At the Movila Vulpii section, aside from the exercise yard, detainees also had access to a gym and a football field.
4. Medical care
Medical care at the Ploieşti Penitentiary was provided every day by 9 employees: one general practitioner, one dentist and seven nurses. The medical team only tended to the detainees. The doctor on duty at the time of the visit told the representatives of APADOR-CH that detainees suffered from chronic illnesses, many from heart conditions, or TB sequels, cirrhosis, polyarthritis, spondylitis. There were no HIV-positive detainees, but the penitentiary did not offer HIV testing either. The doctor said that condoms were not distributed, although they should have been in order to prevent the spreading of infections. The Penitentiary did buy condoms, though, for personal visit rooms. There were former drug-users among the inmates, but no special programs were available for them.
The doctor said there were frequent cases of hunger strikes, but that they didn’t last too long and they didn’t produce effects on the state of health of the hunger-strikers. Detainees were able enlist for medical visits, by room, once a month, but emergencies were seen every day, after the morning call. For serious cases, the center called the emergency number 112 and detainees were taken to civilian hospitals in the city. Once every 6 month, chronic disease specialists made an assessment of the inmates’ state, at the Jilava Penitentiary Hospital.
The medical ward consisted of three rooms. In one of them, a young man of 18 was admitted, with scabies – which he had contracted at the Craiova Penitentiary for Minors and Youths. The condition had been discovered upon arrival at the Penitentiary and the treatment had started immediately.
Only open-regime detainees worked outside the prison. More precisely, 90 of them had jobs with several companies in the city, based on a contract closed with the Penitentiary: at Aplast (a double glazed window producer) there were two shifts of 8 detainees each; 40 detainees worked at Lukoil (vegetation around the gas pools must be cleaned); three shifts of 8 detainees each worked at TNT Intercon (PET recycling); and three shifts of 8 detainees worked at Baumix. Detainees were taken to and from work in the employer’s vehicles. A penitentiary agent supervised the 40 detainees working for Lukoil, while the others were not supervised by prison staff. The Penitentiary had no requests for individual contracts, only for groups of 4 to 40 men.
Detainees in the semi-open regime only worked in the garden of the central unit and for services inside the prison.
6. Food, canteen, in-house shops
The kitchen of the Ploieşti Penitentiary was in the central unit and also provided food for the external section and the farm. The kitchen employed 13 detainees who were submitted to medical tests on a regular basis.
The central unit did not have a canteen, so detainees had their 3 meals in their rooms. At Movila Vulpii external section, however, a canteen had been built. On the day of the visit, it looked clean and well aired.
The kitchen looked reasonably well. The kitchenware, the pantry and the fridges were clean and all stored food was within the expiry term. Lunch consisted of potato soup and pork on cabbage, and of pork soup with noodles and pork with mashed potatoes for diet. The six Muslim detainees received chicken meat. The daily meat ratio for a detainee was 70 grams, or 100 grams for special diet. Fruit were on the menu only for diabetes patients (apples). The bread ratio was 500 grams per day, with an extra 200 g for those who went to work.
The dinner menu for the day was going to include potato stew and semolina with milk porridge; or rice and milk for dystrophy patients and rice and meat for diabetes patients.
For breakfast, detainees received biscuits, margarine, or cheese. Eggs were on the diet menu and ham or bacon for working men. For detainees who went to court, packages were prepared, including cold food: ham, eggs, cheese, biscuits, apples.
Detainees were allowed to go to the in-house shop twice a week (but not allowed to exceed 200 lei of spending per week). The prison management wanted to organize a shop at the Movila Vulpii section as well, in order to avoid transporting detainees from the external sections to the central unit on a weekly basis, for shopping. This was also a complaint of the detainees. They said that on a medical exam day or on a shopping day, they had to spend all day long at the central unit, because there were no possibilities to take them back right away.
According to the prison management, prices at the shop were checked by a commission once a month, so they were kept at the level of local supermarkets. The representatives of APADOR-CH checked the prices and noted, for instance, that vegetables had no visible price. The shop assistant said that tomatoes were 4 lei/kilo, but from discussions with detainees discrepancies were noted: they said they had bought the tomatoes on the very same day at 5.7 lei/kilo. Detainees complained that prices were high, especially for meat products. The shop was open every day, Monday to Friday from 8.30 to 17.00, Saturday from 8.30 to 13.00 and Sunday from 8.30 to 12.00.
7. Contacts with the exterior, other rights
Each detainee had the right to receive 10 kilos of food per month and 10 liters of bottled water and juice. During one visit, a detainee was allowed to see 3 adult and three minor visitors. At the central unit, a room was prepared for the visits: it had eight tables with chairs and a separation cabin for solicitor meetings, for quarantine or for discipline procedures. The procedures for checking in-coming parcels allowed the supervisor and detainee to see the contents of the parcel at the same time. At Movila Vulpii section, the visitation room was also organized like a canteen. Visits were scheduled by phone. Both at the central unit and at Movila Vulpii, matrimonial rooms were available for visiting couples. Both were occupied at the time of the visit of the Association.
Semi-open regime detainees in the central unit had the right to 20 minutes of phone calls per day, using their personal pay cards. Open regime detainees could use the phone for 30 minutes per day. The detainees had cards that included both money and information. If used at an info-point, it provided detainees with information on all their personal data: credit, days worked, situation of court files, terms of the case before the court and legislative information. Each section of the penitentiary had such an info point terminal, but one of them, on Section II, was out of order on the day of the visit. The staff said that the technical problem was of recent date and it was being remedied, while detainees said it had been out of order for months.
The mailbox was on the corridor, at hand, and the mailman picked up the mail in person.
8. The liaison judge
The liaison judge had been appointed one year before and was assisted by a liaison court clerk, with legal studies. They were present at the penitentiary every day. According to the liaison judge, most of the complaints were against the decisions of the discipline committee. About them, the liaison judge said they were mostly soft sanctions: warnings, suspension of the right to receive parcels, of the right to go to the shop; he said that, at least during the past year, there had been no confinement sanctions. Most sanctions – about 40% – were for possession of mobile phones.
9. Visit to the detention rooms, discussions with the detainees
Section II – semi-open regime
Room 37, measuring 32.76 square meters, held 28 detainees in 24 beds. Each inmate had less than 1.2 square meters of space, which is an unacceptable level of overcrowding. Detainees complained that they had to share their beds, that a toilet cabin is insufficient for 28 people and that they didn’t get to have a shower because hot water only ran for 2.5 hours a day.
Room 31 held 31 detainees in 24 beds on a surface of 32.24 square meters, amounting to 1.04 sq m per detainee. Those accommodated here were practically unable to stand up all at the same time in the space that remained unoccupied by the beds. All 32 shared one toilet cabin, two sinks and a shower, with running hot water in the evening, from 20.00 to 22.00. The two hours of running hot water were not enough to ensure the hygiene for all the occupants of the room.
Detainees complained that prices in the shop were very high, twice higher than outside, especially for staple foods like meat products, fruit and vegetable or bread. The inmates said that, although they requested to go to work and to be part of social-educational programs, they were not provided with any works, on the grounds that there were no contracts available. However, when their behavior was assessed, the fact that they did not go to work and did not take part in activities was taken into consideration when certain rewards were denied (such as matrimonial visits, normally allowed once every three months, or an audience with the parole board). Detainees said it was not normal that they should be punished for things that they could not control, because they were very willing to work and be part of activities.
Room 23 held 9 detainees in 9 beds, on 16.74 square meters – giving each detainee 1.86 square meters of space. Mircea Dumitraşcu complained about the quality of the food, saying that detainees rarely received any meat and claiming that that day’s menu was an exception. He also complained that on Fridays he was forced to go to the common bathroom and that he felt humiliated to take a shower with other 15-20 men, in an insalubrious room where water came directly from the pipes in the ceiling, with no shower heads. Dumitraşcu also complained that he was not taken to work.
Costel Daniel Rizea complained that he could not see his wife as often as the other inmates saw theirs and as the law provides. His wife served a sentence at the Târgşor Penitentiary, and Rizea believed that the managements of the two prisons had to take steps to allow the two of them to keep in touch. He also complained about not being taken to work.
In the same room, detainees said that the prison provided soap and toothpaste, but not the detergents for cleaning, which was done by the inmates themselves.
Movila Vulpii external section – open regime
The section consisted of five rooms, (four measuring 51.2 sq m and one of 7.15 sq m), a club, a gym, a kitchen (to warm up the food brought in from the central unit), a canteen, a matrimonial room and a visitation sector. The courtyard was large and well tended, with a football field next to it. On the day of the visit, the section held 107 detainees on 211.95 sq m, less than 2 sq m per person. However, the inconveniences caused by overcrowding were much less resented here, because the rooms had large and reasonably clean bathrooms, they had storage areas and their door were open at all times. During the day, the door of the section was also open, so detainees who didn’t work were able to spend their time in the courtyard, where they had various activities. They also had the right to spend 30 minutes per day on the phone.
The matrimonial room was occupied during the time of the visit, as was the one at the central unit.
Detainees held at Movila Vulpii appreciated the open regime and did not want to complain about detention conditions. Some of them complained however that, when they had to go to the central unit (to the shop or to the medical ward), the trip took the whole day, even if the activity itself only took a few minutes, so they had to spend the rest of the time in an exercise yard in the Rudului Street unit. The prison management admitted this was a problem, mainly due to financial restraints (not enough money for fuel) but said steps were being taken to correct it. Thus, a contract had been signed to open a shop inside the external section and a medical cabinet was envisaged, so the trips to the central unit would become unnecessary.
Another detainee, Nicolae Mârţan, complained that the devices for jamming mobile calls, apart from the fact that they affected their health, also influenced normal phones, disturbing the sound and the communication.
Conclusions and recommendations:
1. APADOR-CH asks the National Administration of Penitentiaries to take urgent steps to solve the problem of overcrowding at the Ploieşti Penitentiary, where detention conditions are inhuman and degrading;
2. The Association points out that in overcrowding conditions, the lack of hygiene and the absence of infection prevention programs may have disastrous consequences. In that respect, APADOR-CH asks for steps to be taken so that detainees have access to enough hot water and other means of preserving hygiene. Also, the Association asks for programs to be initiated, so as to prevent HIV/AIDS spreading by distributing condoms and providing adequate treatment to drug users. The Association insists that condoms should be included on the list of sanitary materials bought from public funds – as the cheapest and safest mode of preventing HIV and other STDs.
3. APADOR-CH recommends the prison management to try to find workplaces for as many detainees as possible, from both detention regimes under their care.
Other conclusions and recommendations have been included in the report.
Maria-Nicoleta Andreescu Dollores Benezic