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March 23, 2023

Special report on prison conditions: Ombudsman suggests less arrests

Technically, the Ombudsman suggests a change in the Criminal Code. He wants less arrests and more releases on probation. The institution led by Victor Ciorbea thinks that this is the only way we can get rid of overcrowding in prisons and of the rest of the issues he describes in a 400-page report.

The Ombudsman talks about retaining centres and preventive arrest centres unproperly located and equipped with insufficient toilets. All of these are reasons to condemn Romania for violating human rights.

The Ombudsman says he has carefully analysed the activity of each penitentiary. He reached two firm conclusion: there are too many detainees and the European laws on detention are not followed.

After investigating the issues, the Ombudsman provides the solutions.

“The reduction, as much as possible, of the cases when the measure of preventive arrest is applied and the reduction of the duration of preventive arrest, by applying the preventive measures of house arrest, release on probation, and release on bail, thus following also the principle that preventive arrest should be an exceptional measure, not a rule”, the report issued by the Ombudsman shows.

In order to make the issue of overcrowding disappear, the Ombudsman also suggest the release from prison of certain categories of convicts:
“There could be a regulation, at least temporary, of release on probation for persons completing the last three years of their prison sentence.”
The Ombudsman also demands new spaces for people kept in preventive arrest.

“Identifying certain locations that might be overtaken and managed by centres of retention and preventive arrest and, last but not least, building new centres to replace the present “basements”, so that they would follow European standards in surface, volume, ventilation, satisfying physiological needs in privacy”, the report mentions.
Romanian prisons include at this point 29,000 persons. The budget allocated to the Penitentiary Administration for this year was about RON 925 million. In Romania, expenses for a convict are estimated at RON 2,000 per month.

There are cases where an inmate has area of only 1 sqm

The capacity of prisons in Romania is exceeded by over 50pct, and there are situations where the average area for an inmate in the cell is of only one square meter, the special report on prison conditions released last Tuesday by the Ombudsman shows.

According to the National Administration of Penitentiaries, in early November there were 28,000 inmates, and the relevant accommodation capacity is of only 18,781 places, with the occupation index standing at 151.13pct.

In addition to overcrowding, another phenomenon was the large number of beds in cells. Thus, almost half of the existing beds in the prison system in Romania are placed on three levels.
Moreover, the existence of the overcrowding phenomenon and degrading detention conditions are the main problems raised by inmates in their notifications to the National Administration of Penitentiaries.

More than one thousand inmates have resorted to refusing food as a protest form, in the first eight months of this year, the said report reads. Among the reasons invoked for food refusal is denying transfer requests by the National Administration of Penitentiaries, medical problems, discontent with accommodation conditions, problems with others inmates etc.

Suicide represents one of the causes of deaths recorded in Romania’s prisons, the most often method used being hanging, according to the report. The surveys conducted by representatives of the Ombudsman in 2014 and in early 2015 there were eight such cases in Romania’s penitentiaries.

The special report of the Ombudsman, entitled “Detention Conditions in Penitentiaries and Detention Centers, Determining Factors in Respecting Human Dignity and Inmates’ Rights” will be officially presented on December 17 within an event at Parliament Palace.

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