26 January 2021
Submission before the Committee of Ministers on the new action plan of the Romanian Government in respect to the cases of Bragadireanu v. Romania and Rezmives and Others v. Romania
The cases of Bragadireanu v. Romania (Application No. 22088/04) and Rezmives and Others v. Romania (Application No. 61467/12), placed under enhanced supervision before the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, concern the overcrowding and the poor detention conditions in Romanian prisons.
In respect of these cases, on 23 November 2020, Romania submitted the new action plan for the period of 2020-2025 regarding the general measures taken so far and the future measures in order to solve the above mentioned issues.
Through the present submission we would like to provide the Committee of Ministers additional information and recommendations regarding the action plan.
APADOR-CH considers that the new action plan contains many measures necessary to solve the existing problems in the penitentiary system. However, the strict observance of the implementation timetable of the established measures remains a matter of great importance and has to be a priority in itself. In the case of the old action plan, a serious problem was the exceeding – sometimes a substantial exceeding – of the set deadlines for achieving the objectives of the plan, especially those on investments. Of course, the special situation of the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be neglected. The pandemic creates additional problems and obstacles in all areas.
In this context, APADOR-CH makes the following recommendations:
- Adopt and publish a set of criteria for the selection of transferable detainees in order to reduce overcrowding
As mentioned in the para. 47 of the new action plan, decision no. 369/2018 of the general director of National Administration of Penitentiaries (‘NAP’) provides for the establishment of the Commission for the analysis of the degree of occupation of the detention spaces. According to the action plan, the Commission meets weekly to analyze which places of detention are the most overcrowded and the least crowded.
Based on this analysis, some detainees are transferred from very crowded prisons to less crowded ones, in order to achieve a balance between penitentiaries regarding the degree of occupation.
This measure of managing the situation created by overcrowding is a reasonable one. Nevertheless, some problems have arisen in practice, which generally consist in the dissatisfaction of several transferred detainees, as the transfer to other penitentiaries moves them too far away from their place of residence. Several of those transferred detainees have interpreted this measure as a punitive one, directed against them. In this regard, the association has received complaints from the transferred detainees or their family members, who expressed their dissatisfaction with not being informed of the reasons for the transfer, together with the suspicion that the transfer was in fact a disguised punishment.
APADOR-CH emphasizes that it failed to identify the criteria according to which a certain detainee, and not another, is transferred from an overcrowded penitentiary to another less crowded penitentiary (transfer motivated by the reduction of overcrowding). Therefore, the association recommends that a clear and unitary set of criteria should be adopted at the NAP level, one that establishes which detainees are selected to be transferred to another penitentiary on grounds of reducing overcrowding. These criteria should be public and accessible to everyone.
The measure of transfer should also be motivated, and the motivation should be communicated to each detainee that is transferred, as the transfer to another penitentiary is an important event in their life. Moreover, the adoption of a clear and uniform set of criteria to be taken into account for the selection of the transferable persons will only help to ensure that the measure is sufficiently motivated in each case.
In conclusion, adopting this set of publicly available criteria for the selection of transferable detainees would lead to the defusing of some tense situations and would also remove suspicions and the current dissatisfaction among some detainees and their families.
- Increasing transparency and improving public communication within NAP concerning the Covid-19 infected detainees
The public communication of the NAP on the subject of the pandemic and the reporting of cases of Covid-19 infected detainees presents some discrepancies that may raise questions about the transparency of the institution in general.
APADOR-CH has been using two main methods to monitor the evolution of the spread the virus in the penitentiary system since the beginning of the pandemic: monitoring of the public statements present on the NAP website and through public information requests according to Law 544/2001. The figures resulting from the two monitoring methods differ substantially and APADOR-CH has no explanation for this.
The monitoring of the public statements on the institution’s website showed the following:
– On April 28, the first case of a detainee infected with Covid 19 (Deva Penitentiary) was announced
– Throughout the summer, until 6 August 2020 when the methodology of reporting cases was changed, a total of 7 cases of sick detainees were reported
– Starting with 6 August 2020, the communication began to be more general and less regular, only the total cases of infected detainees was announced, without naming the units where the patients came from. At the end of September 2020 there were 12 infected detainees
– By October 2020, the number of detainees with Covid-19 gradually reached 80, a figure that includes all cases announced since the beginning of the pandemic (April-October), including those that have probably recovered in the meantime. However, in a statement issued on 21 October, 81 active cases of sick detainees suddenly appeared at the Jilava Penitentiary and on 26 October- 105 active cases
– On 11 November 2020 the cases tripled, in Jilava Penitentiary 214 cases of detainees with Covid-19 and 123 declared recovered were announced, i.e. a total of 337 cases
– On 9 December 2020, the first death among detainees was announced, and on 14 December, 164 cases of detainees under treatment at Jilava and Poarta Albă were announced
– On 7 January 2021, the NAP announced that it only had 50 detainees infected with Covid 19 in the Jilava and Poarta Albă Penitentiary Hospitals
The answer received by APADOR-CH from NAP, as a reply to a December FOI request, reveal completely other statistics. On 5 January 2021, there were 853 Covid-19 infected detainees in the penitentiary system. Of these, on 31 December 2020, 729 people had recovered and 115 people were being treated. NAP also announced 5 deaths on this occasion – the deaths are still not published on the website so far.
The data provided by NAP are deficient, both in the press releases on their website and in the answer provided to APADOR-CH: the figures collected from all press releases, throughout the year 2020, do not match either with the numbers provided to APADOR-CH, nor with the different numbers announced on the site.
As such, it is not possible to know exactly the extent of the pandemic spread in the penitentiary system, what penitentiaries are the most affected, the causes that determined the outbreaks and the way in which the administration managed the situation.
The NAP website is also a means of information for the families of detainees who, in the absence of the opportunity to visit their relatives during the pandemic, should have had safe and clear information about the health of their relatives in prison. During this period, APADOR-CH received emails from relatives of some detainees, worried about the conditions in the penitentiaries and the possibility that their relatives would contract the virus and not receive proper care.
As such, a clearer communication from NAP is required in a complicated period and in a matter as sensitive as such a dangerous disease.
- Intensifying the efforts to attract medical staff in the penitentiary system
There is still a shortage of medical staff, as presented by the Government in the new action plan. According to the NAP’s response to APADOR-CH’s request for public information, on 5 January 2021, the deficit was 50.89%. In order to address the situation, in 2020, competitions for filling 95 vacant medical positions were organised, as a result of which 48 doctors were hired. Also, according to the action plan, another desideratum of the Government is the improvement of the legislative framework regarding the medical staff. This measure is highly needed in order to make the work in the penitentiary system attractive for doctors. However, this desideratum is not included as a priority in the Annex III of the action plan which raises questions about its feasibility and doubts over the Government’s motivation in this regard.
Regarding psychiatric medicine in particular, APADOR-CH considers that the number of psychiatrists provided in the staff scheme is too small compared to the prison population. According to the NAP’s response to APADOR-CH’s request for public information, 21 psychiatrist positions are provided for 40 penitentiary units, of which 13 positions are occupied. In 2019, only in the first 6 months of the year, there were 2225 detainees who received psychiatric treatment. At that time, only 11 psychiatrists were working in the system. The gravity of the situation was also confirmed following the APADOR-CH monitoring visits carried out during 2019. Therefore APADOR-CH considers that the presence of at least one psychiatrist in each penitentiary is required. Even in these conditions, the workload would be very high (a psychiatrist can have up to 100 patients under psychiatric treatment), which raises concerns over the quality of the psychiatric services. For these reasons, it is necessary to supplement the number of positions and to intensify employment efforts.
Last but not least, APADOR-CH considers that the same measures should also target psychologists in the penitentiary system. It has to be highlighted that the psychological service is responsible for all the detainees and implies a broad sphere of activities with inmates. According to the NAP’s response to APADOR-CH’s request for public information, there are 136 psychologists currently working, the number provided in the staff scheme being 192. On 26 January 2021 there were 21788 detainees in the penitentiary system (for 136 psychologists). This reality resulted also from the monitoring visits carried out by APADOR-CH during 2019 (a psychologist having under supervision an average of 150 detainees). Not to mention that in the current context of the pandemic and the restrictions imposed, the need of psychological assistance is even greater. This situation requires more efforts to supplement the positions and to attract the psychologists in the system.
APADOR-CH appreciates the efforts to solve the shortage of healthcare workers by organizing competitions, but the gravity of the situation requires much more. APADOR-CH stresses out the importance of legislative and financial measures in order to motivate doctors to work in the penitentiary system and also to increase the quality of medical services in penitentiaries. In order for this to happen, the Government has to think of a proper and complex strategy of measures, strategy that has to be included in the budget of the action plan.
 According to NAP’s response to APADOR-CH’s FOI request on august 2019
 E.g. Miercurea-Ciuc Penitentiary (in 2019) had no psychiatrist, although between 30-40% of detainees suffered from a mental health problem (the report of the visit is available at: https://www.apador.org/en/raport-asupra-vizitei-in-penitenciarul-cu-regim-inchis-miercurea-ciuc/). According to the NAP’s response to APADOR-CH’s request for public information, Miercurea-Ciuc Penitentiary still didn’t had a psychiatrist on 5 January 2021.
 According to APADOR-CH monitoring visit to Craiova Penitentiary. The reports is available at: https://www.apador.org/en/raport-privind-vizita-in-penitenciarul-craiova/
 APADOR-CH monitoring visits in Craiova, https://www.apador.org/en/raport-privind-vizita-in-penitenciarul-craiova/, Giurgiu, https://www.apador.org/en/raport-privind-vizita-apador-ch-efectuata-la-penitenciarul-giurgiu/, Miercurea-Ciuc, https://www.apador.org/en/raport-asupra-vizitei-in-penitenciarul-cu-regim-inchis-miercurea-ciuc/, Targu-Jiu, https://www.apador.org/en/raport-asupra-vizitei-in-penitenciarul-targu-jiu-3/, Galati, https://www.apador.org/en/raport-asupra-vizitei-in-penitenciarul-de-maxima-siguranta-galati/