Roumania Past and Present eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 315 pages of information about Roumania Past and Present.

II.

The penitentiaries are divided into two classes, ‘preventive’ and ‘central.’  In the central prisons three kinds of punishment exist, forced labour, confinement called ‘reclusion,’ and correction.  The men condemned to forced labour work in the mines (in what manner we shall see presently) during the daytime, and at night they sleep above ground in the prison.  On Sundays and fete-days they do no work.  The product of the labour of the convicts belongs of right to the State, but in order to encourage the prisoners three-tenths is given to them. (We may at once say that this is not faithfully carried into practice, as we know from personal enquiry that many of them are compelled to expend their earning to secure the common necessaries of life.) Aged and feeble persons are transferred to the prison of Cozia, where they weave, &c.  The prisoners condemned to ‘reclusion’ work in tanneries and ropewalks, as for example in the prison of Margineni, and they are entitled to four-tenths of the products of their labour.  In the correctional prisons the convicts cultivate the soil, make bricks, &c., and are entitled to half their wages.  In all the prisons the convicts are permitted to employ their leisure time in making articles of use or ornament from materials furnished to them by the authorities, which are sold to visitors, and the State gives them a proportion of the fruits of their industry. (These articles we found to be beautifully made.  They consist of egg-cups, paper-knives, forks, spoons, &c., carved in wood and resembling similar objects made in Switzerland and the Black Forest.  One prisoner had made a tobacco-box of dough, painted and decorated it with artificial flowers of the same material, so that it was not distinguishable from porcelain; another had forged an axe-blade of steel, etched the surface and fixed it upon a polished ebony rod with a terminal spike, forming a miniature ice-axe, and so forth.)

Religious service is provided for the convicts, but so far as we could learn no educational means whatever, although, according to various reports which were handed to us, by far the larger proportion of the prisoners are Roumanians who can neither read nor write.[72]

The total number of persons, men and women, confined in the sixteen State prisons in Roumania in 1880, including untried offenders, was 5,252, or about one per thousand of the whole population.  Of these 850 were undergoing forced labour in the mines, and 2,491 were imprisoned for less serious offences.  Only 265 were minors, and about 100 or 150 women.  A strange contrast to our criminal statistics.  Besides the inmates of State prisons there were 1,665 persons confined in the district prisons on January 1, 1881, who had been convicted of minor offences.

[Footnote 72:  In 1874 the Assize Courts had judged in all 1,493 persons (1,441 men and 52 women).  Of these there were: 

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