Moldova Prisons - A plea for help!

Before I offer any of my own dialogue, I feel it is important to quote a report from Amnesty International, regarding the prisons in Moldova. This report came after a follow-up visit by A.I., six months after their initial damning report.

“The Moldovan authorities failed to improve conditions of detention. There is particular concern about the conditions in which people are held while awaiting trial and sentencing, often for prolonged periods. Overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions in police lock-ups and pre-trial detention facilities often amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.”

The report goes on to say:

“As of November, 106 minors were held pending trial in Chisinau Prison Number 3. Each of the cells held more people than there were beds available. The young people were not provided with any educational or recreational programmes and were only allowed access to a 25m x 2m concrete yard for one hour a day. At least six of the detainees, one of whom was suffering from tuberculosis, had been held in these conditions for over 16 months. Many of them were poorly clothed and barefoot. In only a few exceptional cases were they allowed a family visit before sentencing.”

“In the women's section of Chisinau Prison Number 3, the authorities reportedly claimed that a cell measuring 2.5m x 1.5m designed for solitary confinement, was no longer in use. However, in October, a visiting human rights monitor reported that she saw a woman, who had been detained in the cell for 10 days, the maximum allowed by prison regulations. The cell, which adjoined the shower room, was extremely humid.”
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Having just returned from Chisinau, and visiting these very prisons, I can say that this report was fair, accurate and without embellishment. Children were packed into cells to such an extent it was virtually impossible for all of them to stand in the cell at once. The single “hole in the floor” toilet held a large bottle wedged into the hole, to prevent rats from climbing from the pipes and biting the children.

I found the conditions to be extremely distressing. But besides looking just at the prisoners, I felt it important to look at the entire operation of the prison system. Since Moldova gained its independence, there have been floods of changes taking place.

According to the United States Central Intelligence Agency, Moldova remains the poorest country in Europe. And sadly, the economy remains vulnerable to higher fuel prices, poor agricultural weather, and the scepticism of foreign investors.

The prison directors are honourable people, who are dedicated to creating change within the system. Unfortunately, they are unable to receive sufficient funding from the government to even feed the prisoners, much less initiate changes. The buildings are old, outdated, virtually every single item in the prison system is either broken, in contravention of current international laws, or simply unsafe.

There is a great deal of focus by the international community on conditions for prisoners. However, we cannot forget to look at the needs of the prison staff that work every day, with almost non-existent tools and unsafe conditions. If we focus on increasing conditions for staff, there will be a natural progression towards better conditions for the prisoners.

At the bottom of this blog is a simple list of needs for the prison system. I would be pleased to speak with you in detail regarding specific needs. We can start on the most basic of items, such as metal detectors, uniforms, identification badges, handcuffs, training programmes, surveillance cameras, and medical equipment. Anything you could help with would be most appreciated. Whatever help you can provide will be gratefully received. And if you can provide any exchange programmes for training, this would help greatly as well.

The prisons have asked for help. They are willingly opening the prisons to any bona fide organisation that is able to help them meet international standards. This includes secular as well as religious based organisations.

I would love to speak with you regarding ways we can help. Please do contact me.

Thank you for caring!

Fr Bill Haymaker+


The Guards Watch Me

Under the suspicious eye of the matron, I am watched closely as I select the cells I wished to inspect. It was obvious that matron was keen to catch the eye of each girl I spoke with, almost as if to frighten the girl into not saying anything I could use against the matron. I eventually made sure I turned my back to the matron to prevent her from seeing the girl I spoke with. This irritated her greatly and she concocted a number of excuses to come check the locks on doors during my interviews. Posted by Hello

Children Are Packed In Cells

The boys are packed into their cells, up to 20 in a cell designed for 12. Sadly, there is a long documented history of abuse within the cells. Many of the children have no parents or friends to visit them. They become lost souls in the prison system. Many of them are guilty of nothing more than stealing stale bread from a bakery's rubbish. Posted by Hello

No Hygiene Products For Girls

The girls work desperately to clean rags for their feminine hygiene needs. The radiator is the sole heat for the cell of 18 girls. On top of the radiator are apple slices they are trying to dry. The bottle next to the radiator is so they can have warm tea from time-to-time. Posted by Hello

Young Girls Are Forced

The matron maintains her control over the girls in the prison. They are subject to routine "inspections" on this stirruped table. According to matron, "contraband is big problem." But it appeared to me that is was the most vulnerable girls who were always suspected, not the hardened women.Posted by Hello

Open Windows Without Glass

This communal cell had 18 girls packed into a cell designed for 12. The prison system is dangerously overcrowded. The Moldovan government has had a recent amnesty which has worked to sharply reduce some of the overcrowding. But part of the problem is with the police, who have yet to change from their old ways. I have intentionally stayed clear of taking photos of people so as to honour their dignity and human rights. Any photos I have taken that include people, were made with the individual's specific permission. Posted by Hello

Rats Climb Up From The Sewer

This is the total toilet and shower facility for a communal cell for 18 people. It was refurbished with a grant from the Swiss Red Cross. However, it is still necessary to close off the toilet bowl with a large object to restrict the rats from climbing up into the cell.
Posted by Hello

Plagued By Rats

The rats are extremely large, larger than cats, and almost the size of small dogs. Rats are always present in the midst of poverty and suffering. Posted by Hello

Babies Locked In Cells

The prison was built in 1835. There have been little or no changes to the structure since its construction. The walls are thick and the hallways are eerily silent. It's only when the cell doors are opened that the full impact of of the conditions become evident. And because there is no glass or windows in the cells, they become colder than freezers. Posted by Hello

Let Out For Only One Hour A Day

When the cell door opened, I gasped at the sight. The cell was so small I could not extend my arms completely. Locked in the cell were two mothers with their babies. This baby is 4 months old. The floor was so vile and infested with rat droppings, the infant only has the steel bed on which the mother and baby sleep to move upon. The Smell was putrid, as if a rat had died in the cell. These women, and their infants, in accordance with Human Rights laws, are released for 60 minutes each day and locked in an open courtyard, slightly larger than the cell. But because there is so much ice on the ground, the mothers choose not to go out, especially in fear of their babies falling ill from the freezing cold, or being attacked by other prisoners. Posted by Hello

Locked In A Cell Until She's Three

This baby is four months old. When she turns 3 years-old, she will be removed from the mother's arms and placed in an orphanage. The laws in Moldova are not much different than that of Greece. Women are often caught up in the vortex of their husband's alleged crimes. In reality, the psychology is that to reach the husband, arrest and detain the woman and children, in the hopes that the father will give himself up.

If you find this idea repugnant, you may recall the news article regarding the Greek government arresting the wife of a political person, in the hopes that her imprisonment would cause him to come forward. She was guilty of nothing!

I do not know the alleged crimes of any of these people. I don't need to know, I do not want to know. It makes no difference to me, whatsoever. They are God's children and deserve to be treated as humans. Always. Posted by Hello

Shower/Washing Facilities Are Appalling!

This washing/shower facility is appalling! This is nothing but a hole in the ground, where the cold water pours onto the women and children. Privacy is unheard of and if you look closely enough, you can see a stalagmite of ice beneath the infant washing table. Posted by Hello

Women Work In The Laundry

These women prisoners do the guards laundry by hand. It's gruelling work, the floors are dangerous, and the laundry often freezes into blocks of ice. The washing machine in the image was donated. But unfortunately, most of the time, there is no electricity to power the washer. Posted by Hello

Danger In The Operating Theatre

Theatre gas delivery is by a Russian built machine from the early 60's. It is still functional, however there is an increasing problem in regulating the gases. Unless this is replaced soon, patients may die on the operating table. Posted by Hello

Please Can You Donate Medical Equipment?

This is the prison operating theatre. The equipment was donated by Austria. Sadly though, the oxygen hoses are covered with duct tape to hold them intact, the right side leg support of the operating table is broken, and the aspirator shuts-off unexpectedly. The hospital desperately needs any and all instruments to help save lives. Posted by Hello

The Kitchen Is Vile

Because the prison can't afford electricity, they must use whatever alternative means available to heat the food. This kitchen caldron is being heated by coal. The conditions were revolting and filthy! Posted by Hello

Carrots and Potatoes Each Day

This is one of the two caldrons where the food is prepared. As I stood there, one of the men who was smoking a hand-rolled cigarette, kept dropping his ash into the pot. It was an appalling sight. Posted by Hello

Feeding The Prisoners

The food is transported in pots to the cells. Gruel, or carrots & potatoes in water. The prisoners place their bowls through the slot in the door where the guard fills the bowl. I did taste it. It was tolerable, but I can't imagine having it every single day. And after having seen where it was prepared, the thought made me wretch! Posted by Hello

A Recreation Sink For Prisoners

Whether it's doing their laundry, or prepairing some food, the conditions are appalling! Posted by Hello

Please Help Donate Your Used Equipment

Equipment is from the old Soviet Union era, most of it doesn't work at all, and sadly, in critical life-threatening situations, lives are most often lost due to the absence of any medical instruments. At the top of the list of needs are: Laryngoscopes, ecg equipment, defibrillators, optical equipment, any ENT instruments, CPR training mannequins, and orthopaedic tools and hardware, such as nails, hip joints, etc. I received a particularly emotional plea for these items from the head surgeon of the emergency medical hospital. Posted by Hello

Managing Social Reforms in Moldova

As a priest and a missionary, my mandate is to reach out towards the community as a whole, with the goal of understanding how I might help foster change within that community.

It is a tribute to the professionals who work within this system that they readily acknowledge their short-comings and have actively asked for any assistance possible. Reform, re-integration, and renewal are all essentials in helping a nation stand by itself, and promote change within the country.

The prison administration is literally strangled by the poverty that exists within its own country. A stripped-bare operating budget still can't be covered by the government. Consequently, staff operate in a constant state of insecurity, corruption becomes the standard, and slowly the system collapses under its own problems.

The directors have quite literally begged for help; help for their staff and their prisoners, as well as for their country, to help them promote a "correctional and reducation concept" rather than merely a punative programme that validates accountabilities.

To achieve this change essential items are desperately required. They are prioritised as follows:

1. Survellience

2. Communications

3. Training

4. Equipment

Any assistance you can provide would be greatly appreciated. For further details, please write:

Project New Life’s goal is to assist communities and individuals better their quality and safety of living.

We respect local values, traditions, and opinions of those involved. We do not presume to assume one country’s culture is better than another, and we aim to help the local community promote national pride and social awareness.

Our precepts are that community development is a process through which a community identifies its own challenges, and involves itself in their solving. Therefore we promote programs of community development on two following directions: infrastructure and social.

Project New Life is an independent, democratic, non-governmental, non-profit, non-conditionally religious, non-political mission. The fundamental objective of which is the protection and promotion of children’s rights, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The direct beneficiaries of our projects are young people, orphaned children, children deprived of parental care, street children, refugee children, children with special social or physical needs, children victims of trafficking, etc.

We actively encourage businesses to consider involving your employees, and the company in international community based projects.

The Cone/Roper Study, A Benchmark Survey of Consumer Awareness and Attitudes Towards Cause Related Marketing, revealed that consumers and employees solidly and consistently support cause related activities.

Cause related promotions impact a company’s bottom line directly by increasing sales and enhancing brand image. Added benefits are increased customer loyalty, employee pride, reduced employee turnover, increased teamwork, and an increase in positive attitudes among participant employees.

Project New Life would be pleased to meet with you, at any time, to discuss how involving your employees in a social responsibility project can help increase revenue for your company.

Sterile Operating Theatre

As I entered the operating theatre I immediately noticed this bucket. It says "sterile gauze." Notice the rust that covers the clamps resting on top of the cannister. Posted by Hello

Recreation For Children

This is the "recreation centre." It is an oversize cell that contains a table tennis set, (they had no balls), a punching bag and nothing else. Up to 25 children can be packed into this 18x24ft room, but legally, it fulfils the requirements established by the United Nations Commission for Human Rights. I'm certain this isn't what they intended. Posted by Hello

Entertainment Centre For Children

This is the "entertainment room" for the imprisoned children. This is all good and well in concept, except you need electricity to run a television! They dream of having a video player and some videos. Posted by Hello

The Prison Directors

L-R: Gheorghe Chirll, Adjutant Director of Moldova Prisons, Natalia Alcazi, Senior Inspector of Prisons - Ministry of Justice, Father Bill Haymaker, Veaceslav Toncoglaz, Director of Prisons.
Mr Toncoglaz was particularly keen for me to see anything I cared to see in the prison system. He said his "heart was heavy" over the fact that he knew he had to help the prisoners, but he could not find the funds to do what needed to be done. He was a sincere man with pride in his country. He wanted to demonstrate to me that all of them were trying very hard to bring about change. I felt sorry for them, because I understood how desperately they were trying. There was no arrogance or sense of self-importance from any of them, only a true desire to find help for the prisons. Natalia asked me if I knew of any religious groups that I could bring to help them because she felt that the prison and the guards needed to learn about their spiritual lives. Posted by Hello