Two representatives of APADOR-CH visited the custody facility of the Mehedinţi County Police Inspectorate on April 17, 2013.
The representatives of the Association noted once again that police custody facilities use procedures that go against the law, more precisely they are in breech of Law no. 275/2006 on the execution of sentences and other measures decided by the judiciary bodies during the criminal trial. Thus, at the Center for Preventive Arrest and Detention (CPAD) in Mehedinţi, the rules are still those set by Order no. 988/2005 approving the Regulations for the organization and functioning of preventive arrest and detention facilities attached to police units. As a consequence detainees, including women or minors, are handcuffed every time they leave the facility (as a rule, not an exceptional measure). APADOR-CH asks again that the practice of automatically handcuffing detainees should be dismissed.
Population, staff, detention spaces, furbishing
At the time of the visit, CPAD Mehedinţi accommodated 17 detainees: 15 adult males, one female and one minor (male). Only one person had been convicted and awaited transfer to the penitentiary, while the rest were on preventive arrest. The detainees who talked to the representatives of APADOR-CH had been arrested for a few days to at most one month. The duration of stay at CPAD Mehedinţi was at most six months (according to the chief of the facility) but generally lasted more than a month.
The staff included 18 agents (of whom one woman). A doctor employed by the Frontier Police Inspectorate or by the Gendarmerie Inspectorate was called in any time a detainee needed to be checked or when new arrivals needed their mandatory medical exam. There was no specialized staff such as a psychologist, social worker or educator. Detainees did not have any activity other than the daily exercise time in the yard and the visits to the club, where they could watch TV, read newspapers or play backgammons.
The facility was located in the semi-basement of a building of the Mehedinţi Police Inspectorate. There were 12 detention rooms, of which five were small (6.75 sq m) and seven were large (12 sq m), with a total capacity of 38 beds.
The smaller rooms had two bunk beds each, while the larger ones had four normal beds, creating a feeling of space. APADOR-CH signals that the space provided per detainee was under the 4 sq m standard, therefore the larger rooms were overcrowded when all beds were occupied. The rooms with the bunk beds are too small even for one single detainee. The Association considers that overcrowding could be significantly reduced without any extra costs by taking some of the unoccupied beds out of the larger rooms.
None of the rooms had lavatories or storage. The situation created a serious problem, because it is humiliating for a person to depend upon others for one’s physiological needs.
The representatives of the Association visited several rooms from both types, as well as the lavatories and showers. The rooms were well kept, whitewashed, clean and well aired. The building was positioned on the north-south direction, with rooms on both sides of a hallway. Therefore eastern rooms had natural sunlight in the morning and western ones in the afternoon. When the sun was not shining, light was dimmed by the small windows doubled by a thick net. Windows could be opened from the inside. The air conditioning system usually worked in summer time. At the time of the visit it was off.
The building had its own heating system, providing heat and hot water around the clock. There were common showers and lavatories with tiled floor, shock-resistant mirrors and clean toilets. The detainees were allowed to shower any time they visited the lavatory.
The Association considers that a person who had to depend on someone else to use the toilet is submitted to humiliating and degrading treatment and that integrated sanitation needs to be introduced in all rooms.
This would not be possible in the current building. The agents on duty claimed the management had it in plan, but found out the current water supply and plumbing system could not be modified to support it, because of its position in relation with the level of the Danube River .
CPAD Mehedinţi provided bedding for all detainees and toilet paper and soap for those who could not afford them.
The building had no video surveillance system, but there was a visual and sound alert system for every room. It was used every time a detainee needed to use the toilet, to make a phone call or to access the fridges in the storage room.
The facility had one exercise yard, large enough (10 x 5m) and equipped with a basketball loop. Detainees were allowed to spend at least one hour per day outside. They could also spend time at the club – a room where they had access to a TV set, a washing machine and a barber’s chair where they could enlist for a shave or a haircut.
None of the rooms had a TV set because there was no cable installed, but they had a sound system where they could listen to radio music from a local station chosen by the agents.
There was no confinement room. The hallways and the entrance hall where detainees left their personal belongings upon arrival looked clean, though rather crowded.
Medical care was provided by the doctors of the Frontier Police and the Gendarmerie, who took turns. The County Police Inspectorate did have a doctor’s position on the personnel list, but it had remained vacant ever since its previous occupant had retired. One of the two doctors came to the facility every time there was a call. During their visit, the representatives of APADOR-CH asked for a doctor and he arrived in a few minutes. The same doctor also did the initial medical exam for arrestees who arrived at the facility. If a person showed signs of violence (or claimed to have been hit), the doctor made a notification and handed it in to the prosecutor. The doctor who talked to the representatives of the Association said that among his recent cases was a detainee who wanted a specialty exam after his column surgery and one who wanted counseling because he was a drug user. Counseling was provided by a psychologist from the Anti-drug Prevention, Assessment and Counseling. Treatment for drug users or former addicts was not available. The facility did not run any program for the prevention of blood or sexual transmission of HIV/hepatitis.
The food provided to detainees at CPAD Mehedinţi was supplied and prepared at the Mehedinţi Penitentiary and brought in by the Police Inspectorate vehicle three times a day. The detainees who talked to the representatives of APADOR-CH said that food was acceptable. They were also allowed to receive parcels from their visitors – maximum 10 kilos of food, 6 kilos of vegetables and 10 l of water or juice per parcel. Detainees could also buy things from the penitentiary shop, mostly food, by handing the supervisor a list, twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays.
There was a kitchen, where kitchenware for distributing the food was kept, and a storage room with fridges and shelves, where detainees kept their own food.
Contact with the outside, other procedures used at CPAD Mehedinţi
The visitation sector consisted of two very small rooms outside the facility, in the same building where the officer on duty worked, near the gate of the County Police Inspectorate. One room was for the check-up and the other one for the visit. The agent stood in front of the door between the two rooms, so that privacy in the conversation was impossible. Each detainee was allowed to receive at most three persons, two adults and one minor. Inside the facility, a special room was organized for meetings with defense lawyers.
The body search of new arrivals took place in the medical cabinet – a room similar to detention cells. The strip search was performed by an agent of the same sex as the detainee.
The phone and the mailbox were placed inside the facility, on the hallway leading to the exercise yard. Detainees were allowed to call their families or lawyer if they had money to buy phone cards (ROMTELECOM cards, had to be provided by visitors). Phones were not protected by any screens to ensure the confidentiality of conversations. Detainees mailed their letters in person. Received mail was recorded in a registry. APADOR-CH considers that the right to privacy of phone calls and correspondence was generally observed in the facility, but asks that phones should be screened.
CPAD Mehedinţi also had a library room, with many books from a collection published by a national daily newspaper and donated by the County Library . In the absence of TV sets in the rooms, some of the detainees, such as the minor boy, spent their time reading.
The liaison judge
The liaison judge in charge of the Mehedinţi Penitentiary visited the facility twice a month and his contact number was posted on the door of every room, alongside the interior regulations. The activity and visibility of the liaison judge may be considered a good practice model.
Visits to the rooms
Room 8 was among the small ones, with bunk beds. At the time of the visit, the 16 year old minor had been held in there, by himself, for 16 days. The detainee was reading a book. The room was warm, like the rest of the facility, but did not have enough light. The minor was satisfied with the detention conditions but said he was bored to be by himself. Even to the yard, he was still taken alone.
The only woman held at the facility was in Room 3, with two beds. She had been arrested two days earlier and was in a visible state of distress because she was in detention for the first time.
Room 11 had 4 beds and held four male detainees. They were satisfied with the conditions and said that they were taken to the club and to the exercise yard often enough and that food was acceptable. One of them, who had a cold, said he had received the necessary treatment. Asked whether they were handcuffed when they left the facility, they said they were, but only to the vehicle, where they were freed. Then again, they were handcuffed on the way from the car to the court. In Room 12, the four detainees had the same favorable opinions on the staff and the atmosphere of the facility.
Conclusions and recommendations:
The Association asks for steps to be taken for introducing integrated sanitation in all rooms.
APADOR-CH considers that CPAD Mehedinţi is overcrowded and recommends a better management of the existing space. A first cost-efficient measure would be to take unnecessary beds out of the larger rooms.
The Association recommends the reorganization of the visitation sector, so as to provide a space that ensures the confidentiality of conversations between detainees and their visitors.
Other conclusions and recommendations have been included in the report.