Two representatives of APADOR-CH visited the Galaţi County Police custody facility on November 21, 2012.
1. Detention spaces – location, furbishing, population, staff
The Center for Preventive Arrest and Detention (CPAD) was located on the premises of the Police Inspectorate and occupied three floors in one wing of the building. Detention rooms occupied two levels, on the first and second floor. The rooms on the ground floor were used as storage or for activities such as fingerprinting. One of the rooms is a “club” for the members of the staff.
The two detention levels included 12 rooms and one confinement room, which, according to the management, had not been used for a long time. At the time of the visit, the confinement room was used as a storage room for the luggage of detainees. On each level, there were six rooms – 4 measuring 12 sq m and two measuring 9. The total surface of detention spaces at CPAD Galaţi was 132 sq m. This space held 57 beds, all of them occupied at the time of the visit. Therefore, each detainee had 2.31 sq m of personal space, much less (about half) of the minimal standard of 4 sq meters recommended by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). The Galaţi CPAD was therefore overcrowded. The chief of the facility even said that he had recently faced the situation when more than 57 detainees had to be put up, so some of them had to share a bed. APADOR-CH considers this intolerable and asks for urgent steps to remediate the situation.
Detention rooms had lavatories of about one square meter, consisting of a Turkish toilet and a showerhead above it. The lavatories were insalubrious. The walls were full of mould and the metal pieces were rusty. A poignant stench of ammonia from the toilets filled the rooms. In the rooms visited by APADOR-CH, detainees had placed PET bottles filled with water into the toilet holes.
Although the rooms were located on the first and second floor, natural lighting was poor (especially of the lower floor) because of the thick wire nets at the windows, and therefore electric lights stayed on throughout the day. APADOR-CH recommends that one layer of wire net should be removed, to allow natural lighting. The rooms were properly aired, because detainees were able to open and close the windows at all times.
Two of the detainees – the “dish boys” – had under care a room with four fridges and some shelves, where detainees could keep the food they received from home. Detainees could request and receive hot water for tea or coffee.
Detention rooms at CPAD Galaţi were equipped with a visual alert system and with TV in good working state. There were no video surveillance cameras in the facility. Three modern vans (Ford Transit) specially equipped for escort missions serviced the facility.
On the day of the visit, all 57 detainees were male, 55 adults and two young detainees (aged 18-21). The police custody facility in Galaţi occasionally held women or minors, but only for short periods of time, after which they were speedily transferred to specialized detention units, usually those in the vicinity. According to the chief of the facility, the average stay at CPAD Galaţi was three months.
The Galaţi police custody facility was staffed by 30 people, including the chief. Four members of the staff were women and, according to the chief, most of them were graduates of the police school, specialized in “custody”.
2. Food, medical care, hygiene.
The food for the CPAD was provided by the Galaţi Penitentiary. Detainees said that most of the time food was so bad they could not touch it. They ate food brought by their families or – if they had money – bought for them by the staff.
A medical cabinet functioned at CPAD Galaţi and, according to the chief of the facility, a GP doctor offered daily consultations. At the time of the visit, a medical assistant was present. Detainees said they were seen by the doctor each time they required, on the same day. According to the staff, in case of a medical emergency they called 112.
CPAD Galaţi did not run any program for the prevention of HIV/hepatitis infection. If an arrestee was a drug user, the facility asked the support of the National Antidrug Agency, which provides psychological counseling (no other type of intervention, like substitute treatment, was not available). APADOR-CH recommends to the chiefs of the facility to consider disease prevention programs.
Hot and cold water was available around the clock (utilities were provided equally to the whole Police Inspectorate building). CPAD Galaţi did not provide any type of hygiene products, although the law required it. This could lead to humiliating situations for arrestees who had no money and were not visited by the family (they could be in the unpleasant position of asking for toilet paper, for instance). Anyway, the lavatories described above were more like sources of infection than facilities for personal hygiene.
3. Contact with the outside, other rights
Detainees at CPAD Galaţi had the right to make two phone calls per week (to numbers they had to declare in advance) and to call they lawyers as often as they wanted, as long as they had money (on the phone card). The phones (two) were not placed properly as to ensure the confidentiality of the conversations. They were on a corridor, next to the guard’s office, and had no booth.
Mail was confidential. Detainees were able to post their letters personally into a mailbox placed on the way to the exercise yard. The in-coming mail was registered – mentioning only the fact that it had arrived, not the sender. Letters were opened by the supervisor, in the presence of the receiver, only to check the contents of the envelope, but not read.
Visits and meetings with lawyers took place in a room outside the facility (also used for investigations), one floor above. The room was not properly equipped to ensure visual surveillance only. It had a table and several chairs, one of which was permanently occupied by a guard throughout family visits. A lawyer who was present at the time of the visit told the representatives of APADOR-CH that the guard went out of the room, if requested, during the visits of the lawyers. The Association recommends that a visual surveillance system should be installed by inserting a window pane viewer into the door.
The facility had two exercise yards, one on each level. The one on the first floor measured about 12 square meters and the one on the second about 15. The yards had no equipment or furniture whatsoever, in fact they were mere rooms without roofs, so detainees could not do anything else but walk to and fro. The persons who talked to the representatives of the Association said they went to the exercise yard every day, for one hour. APADOR-CH suggests that yards should be equipped with minimum support for physical exercise, like horizontal bars, for instance.
If they had money, detainees were able to purchase certain goods, by making a list in the morning. One member of the staff went to a nearby store and bought the requested items.
The liaison judge for the CPAD was the same in charge with the Galaţi Penitentiary. He had no regular hours at the custody facility, where he only came once a month or when his presence was requested, usually when a detainee went on hunger strike. The information on the liaison judge was not posted anywhere in the facility, so detainees did not know exactly how to get to see him. During the visit in the rooms, detainees said they did not know who the judge was. The Association recommends that the name and contact of the judge should be posted in a visible place, as well as contacts for other public institutions of interest.
4. Procedure matters – handcuffing and searches
CPAD Galaţi still used handcuffing as a current procedure, despite the provisions of Law no. 275/2006 on the execution of custodial sentences and of other measures taken by the judiciary during criminal trials; the law stipulated that handcuffing should be an exception, not the rule. Even women and minors were handcuffed (in pairs, one by the right hand and one by the left) every time they were taken outside the facility. APADOR-CH reminds that the functioning regulations for police custody facilities, supposed to update the procedures in accordance with Law no. 275/2006, were not yet issued.
Personal searches upon arrival at CPAD Galaţi was usually performed in the first floor exercise yard, or on the corridor when it was cold outside. In the opinion of the Association, this was a humiliating procedure, because stripping a person in a partially open space, like the yard, and especially on the corridor, is tantamount to exposure in intimate postures bound to create discomfort. APADOR-CH recommends that body searches should be conducted in a closed area (room).
5. Discussions with the detainees
The representatives of APADOR-CH talked to arrestees in three rooms. In Room 5, on the first floor, 12 sq m plus lavatory, there were six men in six beds. In Room 6, on the first floor, 9 sq m, there were four men in four beds and in Room 12, on the second floor, there were six beds, all of them occupied. The detainees complained only of the bad food and of the fetid stench in the rooms.
Conclusions and recommendations:
- The main problem of the custody facility of the Galaţi Police Inspectorate was overcrowding. The discomfort caused by overcrowding was aggravated by the insalubrious lavatories and the absence of adequate natural lighting. The Association asks for urgent measures to remediate the overcrowding issue, a possible solution being to organize some of the service spaces on the ground floor as detention rooms. APADOR-CH also asks for the renovation and sanitization of the lavatories.
- The confidentiality of phone calls and of conversations during family visits was not observed at CPAD Galaţi. The Association considers that this issue could be solved with minor investments, like placing a viewer on the door and Plexiglas panes around the phones.
- APADOR-CH asks again that the current practice of handcuffing arrestees should be renounced and reminds that, according to the law, the use of handcuffs is allowed only in exceptional situations.
Other conclusions and recommendations have been included in the report.
Maria-Nicoleta Andreescu Doina-Adelina Boboşatu