ID: COV-020 03 Nov 2020

An Examination of The Romanian Prison System During The COVID-19 pandemic. Are “Zero Cases” Possible?

In spite of all the measures taken during the past decades, the Romanian prison system is still considered overcrowded by European standards (111% above rated capacity in June 2020). However, very much against the trend set by other European jurisdictions, Romania did not opt for an early release scheme to fight COVID-19. Instead, the government took steps to strengthen its internal mechanisms to ensure safe interactions between staff and inmates, between inmates themselves, and between inmates and the outside world. This paper explains why that was the only option on the table for the Romanian authorities and then provides a preliminary assessment of the consequences of this strategic decision. Overall, with no known case of infected prisoners, while serving their sentence inside the penitentiary system, it seems that the route taken by the Romanian prison authorities was an effective one, at least in terms of minimizing the outbreak of Covid-19 in the prison system. At least so far … However, the legal, psychological, and experiential consequences of these strict medico-carceral measures for the prisoners and their families remain to be explored. (COV-020)

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