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Jilava Penitentiary – Where History Meets the Present

The participants of the 18th ICPA Annual Conference in Romania had the chance to visit Jilava Penitentiary. During the tour attendees had the opportunity to learn about this unique and historical establishment, and we would like to share this information with you in this article. 

Bucharest Jilava Penitentiary was set up in 1907, on the premises of Fort No. 13 Jilava, one of 18 forts built in 1860-1870, around the city of Bucharest, which was part of the circular defensive system of the capital, aimed at defending against attacks by Turkish armies.

Since World War I and especially after that, until the 23rd of August 1944, Jilava Penitentiary became a detention place, although it was a military prison, for both pre-trial and sentenced political prisoners, who under the laws in force at that time, should not have been kept in custody in a military jail. On the 1st of August 1967, in Jilava Penitentiary were held prisoners who committed offences against the State security, common-law re-offenders with penalties of over 10 years or who were no longer able to work, common law prisoners.

There are 510 employees in the institution and around 1,300 convicts-men, adults, serving their penalties in both open and half-open detention regime.

This unit, like all prisons, represents a society’s response against crime, considering its two functions: custodial and educational. The custodial function serves the goal of neutralizing the offenders and control their behavior. The educational function consists of the total educational and psychosocial assistance activities aimed to generate positive changes in the mentality and behavior of the persons in custody.

The role of social reintegration sector is to carry out support activities for the persons who committed offences with a view to adopt life models, in accordance with the legal and social co-existence norms. The sector comprises the services of Education and Psychosocial support.

The educational role of the institution results from the social reintegration activity, as educators’ job is to make evaluations and run educational programs and activities with the persons deprived of liberty such as thematic competitions, debates, conferences, TV shows, exhibitions, literary and artistic activities. Moreover, education in detention involves general activities like school, vocational activities, but also specific ones: therapeutic, social, psychological counseling activities.

In Jilava Penitentiary there are 12 yards for walking. Inside the unit, there is a Centre for social reintegration, intended exclusively for carrying out education and psycho-social assistance activities, which includes: 7 rooms (one library, 4 classrooms, a fitness room, an occupational workshop). Also, there are 6 clubs within the detention sections, 3 educational counselling offices, 3 psychological and social counselling offices and a Radio/TV studio. There are two areas in the administrative sector where IT classes and other activities (school, research, etc.) are carried out.

The prison benefits from three sports fields and a fitness center, where prisoners perform sport activities like football. Each inmate benefits of 3 to 10 hours sports per week. Also, in the court yards a table tennis is installed.

The unit has a library with about 13,000 books and often in this area, under the direction of librarian – literary circles,books reviews, debates and conferences on specific themes, projection of documentary films are organized for the needs of the inmates.

Did you know that…

  • For the bricklaying of Fort 13 Jilava, “Tonola” ultra-hard bricks were used? The assembly was so strong that King Carol I had the courage to stay under the main dome of Jilava Fort when the canon was used to check its strength.
  • After Communists came to power, Fort 13 Jilava became one of the most dreadful political prisons. Some cells were called “black”  because they were under the ground, at 8-10m depth, and inmates were kept in the dark, cold, and moisture;
  • Fort 13 Jilava is now partially a museum and it is open to visits.

Author: National Administration of Penitentiaries - Romania