The authorities are aware that the Romanian prison system is riddled with complex problems. Both the employees in the system and the inmates are deeply dissatisfied, to such an extent that on August 1st, prison staff went on a work-to-rule strike. Prison guards demand improved working conditions, solutions to the personnel shortage problem, the reorganisation of detention facilities and the building of new prisons.
After talks on Thursday with the unionists in the penitentiary system, Prime Minister Mihai Tudose announced the Cabinet’s willingness to take measures to improve the activity of the National Penitentiary Agency. The Government is considering, among other things, an increase in salaries as well as a review of the personnel requirements, in line with the current relevant standards. After the meeting, the head of the National Union of Penitentiary Workers, Stefan Teoroc, said that PM Mihai Tudose had also agreed to a change in the status of penitentiary workers:
Ştefan Teoroc: “As far as our status is concerned, the Prime Minister was firmly in favour of changing the name into ‘Penitentiary Police’, while as far as the number of jobs goes our position is that the same government resolution should increase the number of jobs in the penitentiary system from the current 15,000 to 20,000. We will analyse this together with the Justice Ministry, and even if this increase is to be made gradually, it should begin this year. The first step would be to add a number of jobs and to fill as many vacancies as possible.”
Teoroc also said he had asked the Prime Minister not to proceed with a planned 12,500,000 euro cut in the budget of the penitentiary system, and instead to use this amount for further hiring and for improving working conditions in prisons. He also warns that the unionists will not give up their protests until at least some of the promises made during Thursday’s meeting have been met.
On the other hand, the European Court for Human Rights calls on Romania to improve detention conditions. Prison overcrowding, inadequate sanitation facilities, lack of hygiene, and low food quality are some of the elements pointing to the severe failure of the prison system. In February, the director general of the National Penitentiary Agency, Marius Vulpe, announced that the fines imposed on Romania by the European Court for Human Rights over poor detention conditions totalled 1.6 million euro last year alone.
(translated by: Ana-Maria Popescu)