Justice Minister Raluca Pruna (photo) said on Tuesday that she will propose the adoption of an emergency government ordinance repealing the provision that allows convicts to be paroled if they publish scientific papers, after she found that this practice has gotten completely out of hand.
In this sense, Pruna stated at a press conference that in this sense she will table a draft emergency ordinance during the government’s first meeting in February.
Raluca Pruna reiterated that Law 254/2013 – which stipulates that a convict can shave off 30 days of his jail time if he writes a book behind bars – has been in force in Romania since 1969 but in the past year an ever growing number of convicts have used this legislative loophole to get parole.
While 90 scientific papers were written in Romanian penitentiaries in 2014, their number exploded last year, reaching no less than 340 books, according to the statistics quoted by Raluca Pruna.
“Noting that the phenomenon has gotten out of hand, I have decided to ask the Government to repeal this directive through emergency ordinance,” Pruna stated, adding that she will present a draft emergency ordinance during the first government meeting in February, but not prior to putting the topic up for public debate.
“The urgency is obvious, I don’t believe I have to detail it. (…) For the time being, the best solution is to repeal this directive. On the same day I will table the law’s enforcement guidelines so that they would be adopted at the same time with the emergency ordinance,” the Minister pointed out.
Asked whether she is taking into account replacing Catalin Bejan at the helm of the National Penitentiary Administration (ANP), given the fact that during his term in office several convicts who wrote books of doubtful scientific value and originality were paroled, Raluca Pruna stated “it is premature” to take a decision.
“It is premature to say whether I am considering replacing the head of ANP. An assessment is carried out every January, but actions speak for themselves in what concerns the competence of the ANP Director,” the Minister explained, adding that one could say an informal assessment of Bejan’s activity has started.
Raluca Pruna announced she will ask the Prime Minister’s Audit Body to conduct an investigation into this issue, bearing in mind the fact that professors, universities and publishing houses are also involved in this scandal.
Pruna pointed out that although the law is not enforced retroactively, “those who have already written books will no longer have this opportunity because of the ongoing investigation.”
Anticorruption Directorate notified itself in the case of books written by convicts
Prosecutors of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) notified themselves in the case of books written by convicts in prison to benefit of the 30-day cut in their sentence.
According to a press release issued by DNA, there are suspicions concerning the crime of favouring the offender by granting help to persons convicted for corruption-related crimes with the purpose of obstructing the completion of sentences applied by Court judges.
“According to a note issued by the National Administration of Penitentiaries, as well as from the data existing in public space, there are clues that, actually, these conditions were not fulfilled in reality, and by the deeds they committed, they even attempted to favour convicts”, DNA mentioned.
“This way, among persons convicted to prison sentences for corruption-related crimes, there are convicts who have completed or are about to complete up to 300 days less than established by the Court as an exclusive result of the offending activity that makes the object of our self-notification”, prosecutors declared referring to article no. 96, paragraph 1, letter F of Law no. 254/2013 regarding the completion of sentences that “cut” 30 days of prison for each scientific work published.
Prosecutors are investigating the manner applied, in order to take advantage of this stipulation of the law, in order to create a mechanism that allegedly involved university professors, representatives of certain publishing houses and members of special committees of the National Administration of Penitentiaries, who have acted in collaboration, so that convicted persons would appear as authors of scientific works, and the sanctions applied by Court would be considered as completed.
“These circumstances generated an entire phenomenon that threatened to annihilate the content of all Court verdicts (during December, there were 46 allegedly scientific works being elaborated in Rahova Penitentiary alone)”, DNA prosecutors further mentioned.