Deputy director general of the National Administration of Penitentiaries (ANP) Dan Halchin considers that the short-term measures envisaged for the penitentiary system should result in the effective improvement of detention conditions.
“These are not general issues, we initiated clean-up actions, we have several working frontlines in several prison facilities in the system, so that our entire effort turns visible in the detention room and in the way the detainees and our colleagues perform their activities,” Dan Halchin told the press conference organized at the end of the seminar “Detention conditions in Romania: challenges, best practices and perspectives.”
According to Halchin, the system personnel are aware of the existing issues and are ready to address them. The ANP official also spoke about the time he served as a prison director in Arad and voiced his belief that the measures that led to the notable results in this detention center can be replicated throughout the system.
“Room overcrowding can be relieved by getting the inmates out to work, extending the time they spend out of room, with the extra involvement of decision makers so as to attract the outer potential into the facility – I am talking here about the NGOs and the programs various entities are willing to carry out in prison, but which haven’t been enough encouraged and discussed so far,” said Halchin.
He mentioned that there is enough funding to cover the short-term agenda for the remedy of detention conditions, that is until the end of the year. “We met today for an exchange of best practices, in an attempt we’d want to see succeed within a reasonable period, to change certain things that do not necessarily pertain to funds or human resources, but to a more active involvement and a step taken towards the persons held in custody,” said the ANP deputy head.
He considers that the long term strategy should also involve building new prisons, but that short-term measures are the priority now.
JusMin Pruna: Inmates should dignifiedly serve their sentence, not because ECHR condemns us
Justice Minister Raluca Pruna said Friday, after a meeting with heads of penitentiaries, that inmates should serve their sentences dignifiedly, not because the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) condemns us, but for the society overall.
“I believe the message that has been sent is that inmates are human, they surely did some mistakes, a sentence is meted out to them that has to be served, but they should serve them dignifiedly, and not because the ECHR condemns us; they have to do so for us, the society, keeping in mind that they are our fellow citizens who return to the society. There were very many ideas that I would call innovative that some penitentiaries put on the table,” Pruna told a news conference organised by the Justice Ministry as part of a seminar on challenges, good practice and prospects related to detention conditions in Romania.
She said she met all of Romania’s heads of penitentiaries to discuss the problems in their area, pointing out that there are quite many reports and condemnations form ECHR against Romania for detention conditions.
“There are reports drawn up not just by external partners, but also by the Ombudsman. I have had time while in office to tour penitentiaries and see that not all penitentiaries are the same, that there are solutions at the penitentiary level in the short run, and I and the National Penitentiary Administration (ANP) said that we do good to sit at the same table and see what we can do in the short run. (…) I agreed in principle with the ANP management that we should make public an agreement regarding our talks here. (…) Innovative ideas were put forth; there are things happening in certain penitentiaries that can be replicated elsewhere in the Romanian system of penitentiaries without incurring too high costs,” said Pruna.
Pruna: Consolidating probation could be alternative to prison overcrowding
Justice Minister Raluca Pruna said Friday that consolidating the probation system could be an alternative to prison overcrowding, adding that the system will get 565 new jobs.
“Consolidating the probation system is an alternative to overcrowding and more. That is what the new Code of Criminal Procedure says. It is a new philosophy and we have a lot to work to do here. We have demanded 565 new jobs for the probation system, jobs it should have got over the past three years but it did not get,” Pruna told a news conference on Friday at the end of a seminar on challenges, good practices and prospects related to detention conditions in Romania.
She mentioned that in the context of new penitentiaries being built.
“Under a strategy it passed last year, the Government undertook to build two new penitentiaries of 1,000 places each, and one thing is sure: there are funds for them. There is also the intention of a financier to use Norwegian grants to build a third penitentiary, but I do not know further details about its capacity, anyhow it should not have less than 500 places. Additionally, it is quite known that merely building new penitentiaries is no substitute for having a vision. We may build new penitentiaries all we want, but without a consistent criminal policy those penitentiaries will fill up and we will find ourselves in the same situation,” said Pruna.
She also mentioned other measures penitentiaries may take to avoid prison overcrowding, pointing to the penitentiaries of Timisoara and Gherla, which inmates work with privately-owned companies, thus gaining their right to dignity.
She added that this way income is being earned, first of all by inmates, who can earn a wage that will offer them a dignified life and social reintegration.
“We should remember that the inmates’ social reintegration is the whole finality of this system. (…) We need a wider vision in which to integrate life after prison,” said Pruna.