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+