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March 30, 2023

Famous detainees’ alarm signals heeded: Prison conditions undergo improvement

It took famous persons ending up behind bars and issuing alarm signals that had an impact on the public for things to start moving in the direction of measures being taken to modernize prison conditions, despite the fact that the signals issued by common detainees throughout time had previously left the authorities indifferent.

However, the speech given in Parliament by the former Regional Development and Tourism Minister Elena Udrea  (photo) seems to have set the ball rolling. Policemen remembered they have at their disposal over EUR 1 M from the Norwegian Government for the modernization of detention centers.

If Elena Udrea remains in prison until summer she will have not only a freshly painted jail cell but also air conditioning in the cell she complained about right from the Parliament’s rostrum back when Parliament approved the most recent request to have her placed under arrest in the Bute Boxing Gala case.

Right after she was arrested, Elena Udrea asked for permission to cover the costs of some renovation works, but her request was rejected.

Police officials did not agree at the time that the former minister should renovate the jail cell at her expense, but they rapidly started the modernization works.

“I was taken to the Bucharest Police’s arrest, thoroughly checked and stripped naked. They took away my bra and I was taken to a room 3 meters by 3 meters, which had two bunk beds. There was warm water only in the morning and at night. There was a Turkish toilet, with no door, also a shower head that we used in order to flush. When nobody was using it we covered it with a plastic bottle. So that rats wouldn’t come through. The walls were falling apart, the window did not close properly and there was draught. If you washed your hair you had no hairdryer,” Elena Udrea stated in Parliament last month.

The first changes at the Central Arrest will be visible from the outside because the old windows will be replaced with double pane windows. The walls of the jail cells will be painted, air conditioning units will be installed and the toilets will be modernized.

The access point and the visitors’ room have been painted for now, and works on the men’s toilets are ongoing. 52 arrest centers all over the country should be renovated by the spring of next year.

“The project has been filed and it obtained financing as part of the Norwegian Financial Mechanism 2009-2014. The project spans 24 months and the total value of the financing contract is EUR 1,093,607 and EUR 192,989 co-financing,” the Bucharest Police informs.

Detention conditions are not the only problems in what concerns Romanian arrest centers. Security is also in question. Four persons managed to escape from the Cluj Police’s arrest center in January and February. An investigation has started.

The Ombudsman is also conducting controls within arrest centers and jails after former ministers Elena Udrea and Monica Iacob Ridzi complained of the conditions they found behind bars.

Similar complaints reached the European Court of Human Rights too. In the past five years the Romanian state has paid half a million Euros to the detainees that filed lawsuits on account of the detention conditions.

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