Two representatives of APADOR-CH visited the custody facility attached to the Dolj County Police inspectorate on December 20, 2012.
The Association noted once again that the procedures used in police custody facilities were in contradiction with Law no. 275/2006 on the execution of sentences and other measures decided by the judiciary bodies during the criminal trial. Thus, although the Detention and Preventive Arrest Centre (DPAC) managers had prepared had new interior regulations that took into account the provisions of the new law, the Dolj police custody facility still follows the rules provided by Order no. 988/2005 for the approval of the regulations on the organization and functioning of detention and preventive arrest facilities attached to police stations. As a consequence, handcuffing was a rule, not an exceptional measure, every time a detainee – even a minor or a woman – was taken outside the facility. APADOR-CH reminds the Ministry of Administration and Interior ant it holds the obligation to harmonize the procedures in custody facilities with the law, by issuing a new order to replace Order no. 988/2005.
Population, personnel, detention space, furbishing
At the time of the visit, DPAC Dolj accommodated 60 arrestees – 48 adult males, 6 women and 6 minors (all of them male). Most of them had not been convicted, but some had been sentenced by first instance courts and had been brought to the facility for further investigation.
In exceptional cases, people with definitive sentences were also held here. This was the case of a woman who had a definitive conviction in Italy, had been extradited upon her request and waited to be transferred to a prison after forms were completed. The woman had been at DPAC Dolj for about two months.
Among the detainees who talked to APADOR-CH, one had been there for 4 months – the longest. According to the chief of the facility, the duration of the stay was not longer than six months, but was in general over one month.
The staff consisted of 30 agents (two of them women). One doctor and one nurse, employed by the County Police Inspectorate, came every day to the facility. There was no other type of specialized personnel available (psychologists, social assistants or educators). Anyway, the detainees had no activities except for the daily exercise time. Just a few of them took part in serving meals and managing the storage room.
DPAC Dolj was located in the semi-basement of a building of the Dolj Police Inspectorate. There were 29 detention rooms totaling 300 square meters (including the lavatories, where available). Three of the rooms required massive renovation and were out of use. The remaining 26 held, at the time of the visit, 85 beds. Only 14 rooms were occupied at the time of the visit, including the 4 that had their own lavatories.
The representatives of the Association visited two types of rooms, both overcrowded. Thus, a large room, no. 27, measuring about 28 sq m, held 14 beds. When all were occupied, each detainee had 2 square meters of space, half of the minimum space recommended by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT). At the time of the visit, the room held 10 male detainees. A smaller room, no. 12, measuring about 9 square meters, held 4 beds, all of them occupied. Overcrowding was obvious in both types of room. APADOR-CH asks for urgent steps to reduce overcrowding, such as refurbishing unused spaces (at the time of the visit, several spaces in an advanced state of degradation sat unused) on the ground floor and semi-basement level.
Detention conditions were very different from one room to another. Rooms with lavatories were clean, well aired and well lit (natural light). The lavatories included toilet cabins, sinks and shower. Women were the first to have access to these rooms, then minors, then men.
Most male detainees were held in squalid rooms with no proper natural lighting. Since they had no lavatories, detainees had to call the guard each time they needed to use the toilet, both during the day and during the night. The Association considers that a person who depends on someone else’s benevolence for basic needs such as using the bathroom is submitted to a humiliating, degrading treatment; therefore, it considers that lavatories need to be accessible in every room. This is possible as long as the necessary funds are allocated. Moreover, the common lavatory, with three doorless toilet cabins and one urinal, was in dire need of repairs and cleaning. The shower room was also in a deplorable state, with rusty pipes and moldy walls. Cold water was available round the clock and hot water twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. DPAC provided detainees with bedding, soap and toilet papers.
The Dolj facility had five exercise yards, each measuring about 16 square meters. Detainees were allowed to spend at least one hour every day in these yards, which however had no equipment of any kind.
There were obvious discrepancies between some spaces in the facility and others. Just as some rooms were in excellent shape while others were in a very poor state, so the entrance contrasted with the corridor of the detention rooms. The entrance hall was clean, well lit and recently whitewashed (a Christmas tree decorated it at the tie of the visit), while the interior corridors were dirty, dark and cold.
Medical care was provided by a doctor who worked full time at the facility. He also gave the check up to detainees who were brought in. If a person showed signs of physical violence (or claims to have been beaten) a note was made and sent to the prosecutor. The chiefs of DPAC Dolj said there had been two such cases recently. There was no program to prevent blood or sexual transmission of HIV/hepatitis; treatment programs for (ex) substance abusers were also absent, although injectable drug users (Ketamin, more precisely) had recently been held at the facility. The detainees complained only that they were not allowed to keep any kind of medication on them; drug treatments were distributed daily by medical staff only.
The food provided to detainees at DPAC Dolj was provided and prepared by Craiova penitentiary. The persons who talked to the representatives of APADOR-CH said that food was acceptable and bread was very good. However, most of them relied on food received fro visitors – at most 10 kilos of food, 6 kilos of fresh vegetable and fruit and 10 liters of water or juice per visit. Detainees were able to buy various items, mostly food, from the penitentiary in-house shop, by handing a list to their supervisor.
The facility had a kitchen, with dishes for the distribution of the meals. Two arrestees worked there. Detainees had a storage rooms and fridges to keep their food in.
Contact with the exterior
The visitation sector and the court clerk’s office were two rooms outside the facility, on the upper floor of the same building. Both rooms had separation walls used at all times. Detainees, especially women, complained that open visits were not allowed even for their children. Each detainee was able to receive at most three persons at a time, two adults and one child.
Three pay phones and the mailbox were in the entrance hall of the facility. Detainees were allowed to call their families twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays) and their lawyers every day, provided they had money on their ROMTELECOM cards, bought by their families. Phones had no booth or protection whatsoever to assure the confidentiality of the conversations. Detainees could mail their own letters, but only after it was recorded in a registry, mentioning the sender and receiver. Another registry recorded incoming mail. If the recording of incoming mail could be considered acceptable (the facility claimed it needed to prove it had transmitted the letters), there was no reason for keeping evidence of sent mail, because it could discourage detainees to write to the authorities or other entities.
The mailman brought in and picked up the mail three times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays). APADOR-CH considers that the right of the detainees to confidential phone conversation and mail was not observed and asked the chiefs of the facility to stop recording sent mail and to install phone booths or other type of plastic partitions for the pay phones.
The right to information was ensured by the fact that each room had a TV set (cable provider) and detainees could watch the programs with no restraints or schedule.
Other procedures used at DPAC Dolj – the liaison judge
The search of persons brought in took place in an enclosed space, respecting the right to intimacy of the detainees. More precisely, the body search took place behind a curtain and was performed by a guard of the same sex as the detainee. The room searches took place in the presence of a representative of the room, chosen on the spot by the occupants of that room themselves. The practice of choosing a room leader had been abandoned at DPAC Dolj.
If detainees needed to call a guard (a frequent situation in rooms with no lavatory), they triggered the visual alert system, which was functional in all rooms.
In hunger strike cases, the facility doctor visited the detainee every day and the liaison judge was called in. The liaison judge was in charge of the DPAC Dolj and the Penitentiary for Minors and youth in Craiova. He was present at the facility about twice a week and detainees could contact him on the phone (the number was posted on the mailbox). The activity and visibility of the liaison judge can be considered as good practice models.
The visit to detention rooms
Room 27 was among those without a lavatory. On the day of the visit, the 28 square meter room was overcrowded, although not all 14 beds were occupied. The room, like the whole facility, was well heated but without enough natural light. The 10 detainees held here were satisfied with detention conditions, except the quality of the mattresses and the absence of the lavatory.
Room 12 measured about 9 square meters and had four beds with good mattresses, a lavatory and shower. Hot water was provided twice a week. The four women held here complained that they were not allowed to receive medication from their family and could not keep any kind of pills in their rooms, so they had to bear pains all through the night, until the doctor arrived. They also complained that they could not hold their children when they came to visit, because all visitors were kept behind the separator.
Room 11 – similar to Room 12 in all but the quality of the mattresses – held 2 women in 4 beds. One of them said she suffered from disc hernia and had terrible pains because of the bad mattress.
The representatives of APADOR-CH also talked to the three detainees in Room 10 (9 square meters, four beds, lavatory) who were satisfied with detention conditions.
Conclusions and recommendations:
- The Association asks for urgent steps to be taken to reduce overcrowding and to equip every room with a lavatory. This may be achieved by minimal investment or by better management of resources, since the Dolj facility has both unused spaces and huge discrepancies in terms of furbishing and equipping between some spaces and the others.
- APADOR-CH recommends the reorganization of the visitation sector and allowing open visits, especially in the case of parents receiving their children.
- The Association reiterates its request that the practice of handcuffing detainees as a rule every time they are taken outside the facility be abandoned.
Other conclusions and recommendations have been included in the report.
Maria-Nicoleta Andreescu Dollores Benezic