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July 31, 2021

Penitentiary Administration trade unions demand revocation of sentence reduction bill

National Penitentiary Administration trade unions are asking Justice Minister Raluca Pruna to revoke and redraft the bill which stipulates that a prison sentence is to be reduced by 3 days for each month of imprisonment in improper conditions, arguing that this is “an act of masked collective pardoning.”

“Reducing the prison sentence by 3 days for every 30 days of imprisonment in detention centres that do not offer a surface area of at least 3 square metres per convict can be useful as a measure to lower the overcrowding of penitentiaries and only in the short term and is, in fact, an act of masked collective pardoning. On the medium and long term its effect will be to encourage criminality and to raise the number of convicts. The history of previous measures of this type proves it. In this context, we note that surprisingly there is no serious justification for the selection of the level at which detention conditions are considered improper (less than 3 square meters per convict in the bill, the standard being in fact 4 square metres per convict) or of the number of days by which the sentence is to be reduced (3 days for every 30-day period), or of the period in which the law should be enforced. Except for the constant use of the number “3,” for the sake of symmetry we suspect, neither the Justice Ministry nor the National Penitentiary Administration have presented any kind of estimate on this bill’s impact on criminality (very likely significant in the sense of encouraging it) or on improving detention conditions,” reads a communique issued by the Omnia Trade Union.

At the same time, trade union members claim that Minister Raluca Pruna’s statement about Romania risking an alleged fine of 80 million Euros is inaccurate.

“In reality, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has asked for the improvement of detention conditions, and the Romanian state took the commitment of doing so in the next 8 years, earmarking a budget of approximately 800 million Euros for this national programme. Identified were even investment areas, the number of cells that should be modernised and how many penitentiaries would be built. However, the ECHR never demanded the offering of compensation to all convicts, in the form of sentence reductions or money, because of the detention conditions. And, it has to be pointed out that in fact the ECHR does not fine states in the sense presented by Minister Raluca Pruna, but instead it sets damages to be paid to those whose rights were harmed. (…) The Justice Ministry probably lied in the fight for truth (sic) this time around too,” reads the document.

According to National Penitentiary Administration trade unions, the number of convicts will rise significantly in the next 5 years, after this bill is approved.

“Not at all a trifle for penitentiaries, calculating these sentence reduction days (one director proposed dubbing them ‘Pruna days’ to differentiate them from sentence reduction days earned through labour) will be a huge administrative effort, considering that the number of days earned by convicts who spent different periods in various cells of various penitentiaries, each cell with a different surface area, must be identified exactly and highly accurately. Basically, in a matter of a few days, over 28,000 such files must be formed, with hundreds of thousands more probably adding up to them by 2022. So, we are expecting thousands of lawsuits in relation to the way these days are calculated, bearing in mind that the potential beneficiaries will try to win as many days as possible, something understandable and not at all surprising. Likewise, it is expected that the convicts, naturally under various pretexts, will ask to be housed in cells that entail the 3-day reduction of sentence for every 30 days spent there. All of this will come in addition to thousands of parole files which will most likely gridlock both penitentiaries and courts given the acute lack of personnel,” reads the communique.

Trade union members are asking the Justice Minister to pull the bill from the agenda and to come up with a bill that directly addresses the problem she must solve: the precarious detention conditions. The request is signed by 14 trade unions.


Justice Minister launches public consultations on bill on compensation for detention conditions


The Justice Ministry announced last week that it was launching public consultations on the bill concerning the introduction of a mechanism through which to compensate improper detention conditions by reducing prison sentences.

“Bearing in mind the overcrowded Romanian penitentiary system, the Justice Ministry launches for public consultations the bill that amends and supplements law no.254/2013 on the serving of detention and prison sentences ruled by judiciary bodies during the criminal trial, by instituting a compensatory mechanism consisting of sentence reduction,” reads the communique.

According to the bill, when calculating the sentence that can be lawfully considered as served, one is to include, as a compensatory measure, the serving of the sentence in improper detention conditions, thus: for each period of 30 days served in improper detention conditions, an extra 3 days are deducted from the sentence ruled, being considered as served. In this way, the regulated measure goes beyond the framework of a compensatory remedy in the strict sense, the compensation being offered ex officio, not being conditioned by the filing of a request, the source adds.

This compensation is included in the parole procedure, all conditions on whose basis it is offered set to be examined by the penitentiary’s parole commission and by the court.

Observations on and proposals related to the bill can be lodged with the Justice Ministry, in writing, on November 3-13.

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