Printer Friendly

The organization of prisons in the Romanian principalities (1831-1862).

Under the Public Assembly decision (the legislative forum, created by the Organic Regulation of March 20, 1831, prisons were no longer administered by the Great Provost Marshal, but by the prisons Magistrate, who was placed in hierarchy after the police Magistrate (in 1859, the old name was replaced with that of administrator of jails and prisons, from 1860 with that of General Director of Prisons, until 1862 when, at the actual union of the two Principalities, the name of general inspector was adopted).

In addition to the task regarding "the protection of a good organization of prisons and mines," the inspector was also in charge with the collection of taxes from princely Gypsies. He had in his subordination an inspector of all prisons, as well as a number of inferior state officials, the equivalent of the later directors of prisons.

Throughout the Principalities there were six prisons: the prison from the capital, from Craiova, Giurgiu, Braila, Ocna-Telega and Ocnele-Mari. The jails in Braila, Giurgiu, Telega and Ocnele-Mari were called "punishment prisons." In the two prisons from the mines, were imprisoned prisoners convicted at hard labor for life, but also for limited time; at Giurgiu and Braila, those condemned to reclusion by public work; in other prisons those sentenced to correction. Apart from those main prisons, there were also other 14 counties prisons.

After the "Fulfilling orders of the prisons Regulation" (1) from 1833, the state budget had to provide the necessary amounts for detainees' food and clothing, lighting and heating, hospital expenses and salary of the six prison officials. The money collected through charity boxes was used in improving the food and drink of the condemned "in meaningful (significant) holly days and Sundays."

For counties jails, the "Magistrature" (mayoralty and municipal councils) of every district capital where a prison was built, had to cover those costs from local funds.

Each prison was administered by an inferior state official, and the mines by an inspector.

Convicts in prisons from Braila, Giurgiu and Bucharest were used to different works: building roads, sewers, buildings, etc., and those from mines, to cutting salt. The latter lived in abandoned mines.

The same "Orders" regulated also construction plans of new buildings for prisons. The building from Telega--for example--had to have two partitions: one for those who, for less guilt, were condemned by law, to forced labour "on term" and the other, for those convicted for life or to death, but their penalty was switched into prison on term, if they were not "killers with deliberation" or with other capital guilt--category of offenders who were imprisoned at the depleted mine from Telega. The jail from Ocnele-Mari was ordained only for those sentenced to hard labor for limited time.

Every prison created also a lonely room (cell) to punish disobedient and rebellious prisoners, one building for the hospital and one for the administrative staff. Until the founding, in 1843, of the first building for prison to forced labor, prisoners slept in abandoned mines, where they had beds with bars, straw bedding. "The stench" (bad air) from those mines was cleaned with fire, and the "other dirt" was removed, at least every two days, with tubs. Every opening of abandoned mine was given firewood and four candles per night.

Punishments given to prisoners from all jails and mines were: the scarcity of food portion, water station and the beating from 25 to 158 sticks (Article 18 of Prisons Regulation).

Under the "Rules for Penalties Given to Quarrelsome Arrested," the convict sentenced to prison for life, who would have tried to escape, was punished, among others, with 200 sticks in four rows. The same way was punished, the one who would have helped him.

One part from the work of prisoners was reserved and capitalized, being kept until their release; two parts were charged by the Magistrate, being used for food, drink, their clothing and other needs. As encouragement to work, the ones cutting two boulders of salt per day received 20 ounces (3.18 to 1.23 grams of brandy) and the ones cutting three boulders received 50 ounces.

Articles 88-111 included provisions also for county jails. According to them, "each county seat attached to the Sway" (under the protection of police) must have one prison, with two partitions, one for those with smaller errors, and another for those with greater guilt.

The convicted, condemned to sentences of up to one year, were detained in prisons from Bucharest and Craiova, and in county prisons, and those convicted "for political facts" were held in a special area near law courts, under the supervision of the "Police -Master" As absorption ability, jails in Bucharest and Craiova could include 240 prisoners each, county prisons up to 30 prisoners, prisons in Braila, Giurgiu, Telega and Ocnele-Mari could include about 250 people each. (2)

The above mentioned Regulation also provided that prisons in Bucharest and Craiova, as well as the ones in counties should be organized into four compartments, separated for men and women, for those on remand or serving a sentence. Each of those prisons had to be equipped with small and lonely rooms for rebellious and recalcitrant prisoners, with hospitals, chapels, etc.

Although the above mentioned Regulation had planned the construction --under the plans of state engineer, Blaremberg and even attaching a term (1833-1836) of the main prisons mentioned, those objectives were not achieved because of the lack of funds. Moreover, even some existing settlements had come to fall into ruin, and consequently the convicts were transferred to monasteries.

People sent "in exile for repentance"--usually boyars with hostile attitude towards the rule--and women, whether condemned to limited time or for life, were serving their sentence in monasteries, particularly ordered to this end, under the supervision of the prisons Authority. Their maintenance, though, was the state task.

Under the reign of Barbu Ctirbei (1849-1853), at the monastery Arnota (built by Matei Basarab in 1706), a prison for banished noblemen (disobedient or "heinous" and troublemakers to the reign) was founded. It was the first prison from Principalities where the cellular system was adopted. In the two levels, the upper level consisted of eight rooms quite spacious, and six of them were for inferior boyars, two for the first-ranking boyars, and the lower floor was designed as a prison for "regular guilty individuals" Besides those places, there were also cells for punishment or incarceration, very small and barely enough for one man. The guard was provided by a detachment of soldiers. (3)

The medical care for sick people in prisons was provided by mesh doctors. "A spiritual father of the most learned" was provided for moralizing prisoners, and he was also required, in addition to religious services, to preach. As an incentive for correcting and moralizing, the Regulation provided that, for prisoners with good manners to be asked, by hierarchy, through the prison Authority, the relief or remission of their punishment.

As for the food, it was provided that "they were given throughout the day, of the money appointed for their meals, at least one half oca (old unit of measurement equal to three pounds/three pints), bread, one soup and one half oca of cheese a week when there was no fast, and vegetables during the fast" Prisoners received not only bread, but also polenta.

Private persons could bring, as alms, food, or contribute with money to the charity box. In the days of remembrance of the dead, the compassionate and pious people were going with alms at prisons and shared them to prisoners.

As for the inmates' clothes, only later a uniform was adopted and it consisted of a flushing thick twilled cloth, a pair of flushing pants, two shirts and two pairs of tights of thick cloth, a pair of sandals and a sheep fur hat.

Prisons in Moldavia

As in the Romanian Country, the beginning of prisons organization in Moldavia dates back from the application of Organic Regulation, by Public Assembly decisions--the anaphora (decrees) of the Administrative Council --true government of the country--and the princely decrees.

The provost Marshal was responsible for the administration of prisons, prisoners' security and safety. Although thereafter he still remained formally with those same tasks, many of them were taken over by the Criminal President. During the reign of Grigore Alexandra Ghica (18491856), the position of provost marshal changed into that of General Inspector of Prisons.

In Moldavia, there were 13 counties prisons (stone jugs). In Iasi, the capital of the country, there was a main jail (at the Criminal) and another in police custody. For the convicted to forced labor, there was the "Great Penitentiary" from Targu Ocna (built in 1850 by ruler Grigore Ghica); they were all maintained by the state. (4)

As in the Romanian Country, money from private donations recorded in a register with names of donors was added to the amounts provided by the budget.

Before the Organic Regulations, the prison was managed after old provisions, not governed by rules and regulations pertaining to the law. Those with irrevocable convictions executed public works and the convicted to hard labor had to cut salt. After concluding the Administrative Council from 1843, each prisoner was obliged to cut five blocks of salt per day. They lived in the mine, being cast out only the sick and weak ones for airing, but no more than two, when they were ordained to be seen by a doctor.

The salt was cut at night, so that during the day, the convict would carry it up to the mine opening. The mine did not have stairs so that they could not escape, under any circumstance. With regard to disciplinary penalties imposed to detainees, they were the same as in Wallachia. Those released from mines and prisons committed themselves, under a written assurance, that they would not commit other acts punishable by law, in the future. The police station and the Sub- prefectures sent each year to the Department from within (Ministry of Interior) a general list with the names of all those who made bail, and the place that they had chosen, as home. But, when villages would not take them back in or would not give guarantees for them, under the Administrative Council anaphora and the princely resolution of January 14, 1837, "such villains not received by their congregation" had "to be sent abroad." (5) However, that provision was applied just in a few cases and did not remain long in force.

Until the reign of Grigore Alexandra Ghica (1849-1853), no measures were taken to improve the state of prison premises. In 1850, the prince requested a report on the situation of stone jugs, and the Public Works Department presented a grim picture. "In some provinces, a single room and a hole of land serve as jail for dozens of people, the smallest gap between sexes, between servant and deed, between the degrees of their guilt and on top of that, even rooms today are in ruins." It also follows that all 13 stone jugs of the country required a fast repair, being impossible to shelter numerous prisoners in the approaching winter.

The document showed a plan of building and organizing some prisons where spaces for women would be separated from those of men, as well as the ones of perpetrators of petty offences would be separated from the ones of perpetrators of other serious crimes. The plan also provided the arranging of walking places, with trees, for "the necessary health of the prisoners."

The amounts claimed for the construction of those prisons and their maintenance being considerable, a burden sharing between state and municipalities was expected. It was expected also to start building new prisons in Suceava, Neamt, Putna, Tecuci, Vaslui, Falciu and Iasj.

Although the ruler approved that plan, the shortage of funds did allow only certain repairs and modifications to the prison from the capital, leaving counties stone jugs installed in private homes rented totally unsuitable for their intended purpose.

Since the sentenced to hard labor from Targu Ocna still lived in the mines pit, it was decided, by princely rule, the building of a secure prison for them. Concerned about the fate of those condemned "in the depths and darkness of the earth, without ever enjoying the light and clean air ... which is often the cause for hard disease and even loss of life - stated the princely rule--we find it necessary to found, from the revenue of the public works department, a solid prison with walls that will serve as a shelter for guilty people, at night and during the day, they will be lowered into the pit of the mine, to work as usual." (6) Following that provision, the building of a prison in Targu Ocna began immediately and it was finished in 1855; that prison still existed in the early twentieth century.

Because not only in counties stone jugs, but even in the state capital prison, the inmates' state was particularly hard, an Administrative Council anaphora and a princely rule from 1855 gave provisions for food, clothing, the hygiene of arrested, for heating and lighting in prisons. According to the royal decree, each sentenced was allotted 22 pennies per day, of which 14 to buy two breads, with five streams and two pennies a pound (= 250 gr.) meat, with a penny, cabbage or potatoes, with a penny, onion and salt; the chaff for the soup was obtained from the tithe that bakers used to give.

As for the clothes, since many of the arrested entered the jail naked and others tore their clothes during their staying in prison, it was decided that each year, clothes for a hundred arrested should be made in prison: 100 coats (thick twilled cloths) with their loose trousers (pants), 100 hats and 200 pairs of sandals.

For heating and lighting in prisons, a certain amount of wood and tallow candles was provided. Provisions of the princely rule from 1855 remained in force for more than 20 years, when a prison Regulation--adopted after the Union from 1859--was drawn up for the entire Romania.


(1.) Dianu, Grigore I. (1907), Criminality and Its Causes in Romania. Prisons. Repression of Crimes and Penalties. Prison Systems. The Moralization of the Convicted. Bucharest, 15.

(2.) Stanciulescu, Ovid (1933), Research on the Prison Regime Evolution in the Nineteenth Century. Cluj, 64.

(3.) Filitti, I.C., Suchianu, D.I. (1926), Contributions to the History of Criminal Law. Bucharest, 55.

(4.) Xenopol, A. D. (1896), History of Romanians in Trajan's Dacia. Third Edition, Volume XII, Iasi, 42; Musoiu, P. (1898), Prisons, Bucharest, 40.

(5.) Constantinescu, E. (1937), The Evolution of the Prison Regime in Romania, Bucharest, 153.

(6.) Ibid, 148.

Luminita Eleni MEREI

Spiru Haret University, Constantza
COPYRIGHT 2012 Addleton Academic Publishers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Merei, Luminita Eleni
Publication:Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EXRO
Date:Jul 1, 2012
Previous Article:Droit et ordre social dans l'antiquite romaine : morceaux choisis.
Next Article:Forms of medieval judicial procedure of the Romanian people.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2020 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters