Author(s)APADOR-CH (The Helsinki Committee) and Prison Insider
The prison population decreased from 30,156 detainees in 2014 to 28,393 in 2015.
The European court of human rights regularly condemns Romania for prison overcrowding, which remains an issue of serious concern. Since 2012, a Committee of Ministers has been assessing the measures adopted by the authorities to improve overcrowding. The Government has also been assisted by international experts since 20141.
Reforms came into force on 1 February 2014, a new Criminal Code and Code of Criminal Procedure as well as new laws on probation and custodial and non-custodial sentences. The reforms also include measures aimed at increasing detention capacity and at improving prison conditions.
Despite these measures, APADOR-CH reported in September 2015 that pre-trial detention was still being applied significantly more often than alternative non-custodial measures (7.6 % of prisoners are pre-trial detainees) and an average pre-trial detention length of 25 months is still well above the 9 months European average.
Human Rights Trust Fund
on “implementing pilot, ‘quasi-pilot’ judgments and judgments revealing systemic and structural problems in the field of detention on remand and remedies to challenge conditions of detention” (HRTF project No. 18) ↩
The number of women prisoners increased from 1,273 in 2010 to 1,413 in February 2016. The country has one women-only prison in Târsgor and seven other prisons with special wings for women.
Târgsor prison is located outside any city and houses half Romania’s female prisoners (706). Many women do not want to be sent to Târgsor because of the difficulty maintaining family ties. Access to prison involves an overnight stay at a hotel in Ploiesti that most families cannot afford. Postal parcels are not allowed. Women get parcels only during visits or have to purchase goods at the prison stores.
According to the law, pregnant women should receive an appropriate diet as recommended by the doctor of the prison facility. They are sent to hospitals such as Rahova prison hospital 30 days before the estimated birth date. They should, in theory, also be able to give birth in a general hospital. There is a nursery in Târgsor prison with two rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a yard. Each room is spacious and well appointed with carpets, beds and cots. There are also toys and baby-changing facilities. These rooms are equipped with a panic button in case of emergency and a family doctor visits the unit regularly.
Mothers can keep their babies in the prison or in the prison hospital until the child reaches 12 months of age. Children can then visit their mother once a week. There is a special visiting room with children’s furniture, toys and books, etc. where women can have physical contact with their children. This facility is only available in Târgsor and not in the other prisons where women are held.
The Târgsor prison director is a woman and no men are employed in women’s prisons or in women’s wings in roles where they can have physical contact with female prisoners. Both men and women are employed in security and operational forces. There is a gynecologist in the Târgsor prison medical facility1.
According to the Criminal Code, the minimum age for criminal liability is 14 years, without exception, a lack of discernment is presumed. At 16 years old, discernment is presumed unless proven otherwise.
Minors aged between 14 and 18 years represent 1.2 % of the total prison population according to the 2015 report of the National Administration of Penitentiaries. Young offenders between 18 and 21 years old represent 4,25 % and are held together with minors in detention centres.
There are 2 detention centres (Craiova, Tichileşti) and 2 educational centres (Buzias, Targu Ocna) both holding offenders aged between 14 and 21 years old. Detention centres hold juveniles sentenced to 2 to 5 years and 5 to 15 years. For shorter sentences between 1 and 3 years, juveniles are sent to an educational centre.
Minors are not sentenced to life imprisonment. Even for crimes where ‘life sentences’ are applicable, minors are strictly imprisoned for 5 to 15 years.
88 % of offenses committed by those aged between 16 and 18 years old are property offences, mainly theft and robbery.
School programs are run by the Ministry of Education and are mandatory for imprisoned minors (law no. 254/2013). Apart from school, detainees have other types of activities such as civic education, sport, theatre and psychological and moral assistance (“Life behind bars” program in Craiova). However, there is a lack of socio-educational and medical staff.
In Buziaş educational center, girls, detainees with behavioural issues and well-behaved detainees are accommodated in special areas.
To keep contact with their families, payphones, mailboxes and info-kiosks are accessible. In Buziaş Education Center, two days a week, from 7.30am to 7.30pm, residents can receive calls from their parents.
According to the law on enforcement of custodial sentences (law no. 254/2013), an overseeing judge is available in educational centers, juveniles can file rights related complaints to the judge.
The number of foreigners incarcerated in Romania increased from 0.6 % in 2014 to 1 % early 2016. Foreigners are mainly Turks, Moldavians and Italians.
Foreigners are not separated in specific wings and must respect the same rules as other detainees. Generally, foreign nationals who commit crimes (Alien law, amendment 113/2005 art 91) receive an expulsion order and are kept in police custody (30 days to 2 years).
Entering or exiting the country by illegal crossing of the border is punished with 3 months to 2 years of imprisonment1.
Hungarians and the Roma are over-represented and discriminated against in Romanian prisons. 3.6 % of the prisoners were Roma (approx. 1,031) at the end of 2014. In Targu Mures, Codlea and Miercurea Ciuc jails, the Hungarian inmate population represent more than 20% of the prison population.
Ethnicity is not considered when allocating prisoners to cells1.
Discrimination can take the form of racist behaviour, harassment and language restrictions. The Hungarian language cannot be spoken. No TV channels, radio stations, teachers, priests or psychological help is available in Hungarian. Letters to families must be written in Romanian.
In the country, the largest religious minority is Roman catholic (4.5 %). Only orthodox priests receive subsidies to animate religious services in prisons. Representatives of other faiths can do so at their own expense. In Arad, Timioara and Craiova penitentiaries, Catholics and other religious minorities such as Protestants, Muslims, Jehovah's witnesses and Jews cannot benefit from religious services2.
Being LGBTI is legal but societal discrimination remains a problem. In September 2015, an opinion poll commissioned by the National Council to combat discrimination (NCCD) revealed that LGB people rank fourth among the most discriminated groups in Romania.
On 18 January 2015, the Association ACCEPT submitted a paper called “Treatment of LGBT persons deprived of liberty: risks of ill treatment” to the Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture. According to ACCEPT, “the challenges concern the lack of monitoring and data collection (last monitoring in 2007), the gaps in the legislative framework (particularly in relation to gender identity and expression), underreporting of abuses by victims and inadequate investigations into complaints, the lack of training of state actors, the inability of trans persons to choose which prison population they will be accommodated with, and the failure to allow trans persons access to hormonal treatment".
The Ethics Code of prison staff forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation. However in practice, guards often ignore sexual abuses.
The elderly do not benefit from specific programs or routines, nor are they detained in specific sections.
In the New Criminal Code, two articles concern elderly prisoners, who can benefit from a replacement or an exception to a sentence of life imprisonment.
If the defendant is 65 years of age on the date of judgement, the sentence of life imprisonment will be replaced by a prison term of 30 years and a ban on the exercise of certain rights for the maximum duration of the prison sentence (art.57)
In case the defendant sentenced to life imprisonment turns 65 years of age while serving that sentence, life imprisonment can be replaced by a term of 30 years of imprisonment and a ban on the exercise of certain rights for the maximum duration of the prison sentence, if they have previously had good behaviour and complied with all civil obligations (art. 58)
The sick and the disabled
In Romania there are 6 prison hospitals and 5 psychiatry wards. Jilava prison-hospital has one ward for acute patients, Colibasi prison-hospital a ward for chronically ill patients, Rahova prison-hospital a detox ward and Poarta Alba prison-hospital one ward for acute patients and one for chronically ill patients.
There is a high rate of mental disorders in prison. Detainees are often not diagnosed except if they have a severe mental disorder. The court diversion system prevents mentally ill persons from being imprisoned and recommends hospitalization in an external psychiatric hospital.
If diagnosed in prison, mentally ill detainees can only be treated by being sent to a prison hospital with a psychiatric ward. In the Jilava prison hospital, 85 out of 390 beds are kept for persons suffering from mental illness. Because legislation forbids involuntary treatment, a prisoner remains untreated if he/she refuses the proposed treatment in prison. After release, there is no psychiatric follow up.
There are no specific facilities for detainees with physical disabilities.
According to the National Administration of Penitentiaries, 18 detainees were unable to serve their sentence for medical reasons in 2015.