Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

The Affirmation of the Renewing Current of Prison Reform in 19th Century Romanian Thinking

Academic journal article Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice

The Affirmation of the Renewing Current of Prison Reform in 19th Century Romanian Thinking

Article excerpt


In 1882, the work entitled About the Need of Reform in Criminal Prisons, signed by Gregory Gramaticescu, Chief Prosecutor at the Court of Appeal Craiova, was offered to the coroners of the Old Kingdom. Over more than a century, a famous contemporary author, Emilian Stanisor, published The Romanian Prison Reform. The interval between these years suggests, therefore, a perpetual, but never finalized reform. The period before the organization, on modern grounds, of the Romanian State - first half of the nineteenth century - brought to the foreground of concerns of the Romanian lawyers, schooled in the West, in the humanist spirit of the time, the issue of humanizing life in prisons and jails, after, including some enlightened rulers of the Principalities Wallachia and Moldavia, have expressed sympathy for the fate of the unfortunate creatures that inhabited them. The basic idea which guided like a red thread, thinkers and legislators of this century was the transformation of places of detention from exclusively expiator tools - repressive and dehumanizing - in an environment of moral reeducation so that, after serving the sentence, the formerly condemned to be recovered by society in respect of law and honest labour. The fact that after so long, many of the prison problems remained almost unchanged in terms of results is a testimony to complexity. They represent also an urge to those whose mission is to imagine a new penitentiary reform, to reconsider the thinking of those who conceived the Organic Regulations, the Romanian Penal Code of 1865, the law on prison system in 1874 and the afferent Regulations, which have followed.

Keywords: conditions of detention, prison doctrine and reform, reintegration

For hundreds of years, the human life hung by a thread, depending of uncertain common laws, of the arbitrariness and caprice of governors, being often ended with cruelty to a simple sign, and places of detention were short stops to the most horrific form of execution. Renaissance and Humanism, the great revolutions of modern world had to come, to give an impulse to revival in the association of punishment with law and justice. In this new climate, a natural feeling of solidarity determined the whole-civilized world to stand against the inhumane treatment that convicts were submitted to and to require the transformation of detention places from exclusive instruments of punishment into "establishments of moral recuperation."1 But, only in the nineteenth century, it was developed the concept according to which jails could become, from means of expiation of the evil committed, "social sanatoriums for healing the soul of the one in conflict with the laws of society."2

During this time, the renewing current of reforming the system of prisons maintained by illustrious names of the modern history and the science of law (Cezare Beccaria, John Howard, Benjamin Franklin, Elizabeth Fey, etc.) registered a great echo. The opinion that prison ought to have been more than it really was, has been expressed in many ways. A documented paper3 quotes in this direction the authorized views of some leading authorities in the field, recognized in Europe and America. After lengthy disputes and experiences, experts in the penology science could only find that by hardening physical and moral suffering of criminals in order to recuperate them, the results obtained were quite contrary to expectations; the hope that jails could become "social sanatoriums" was still a chimera which led to pessimistic conclusions.

So for example, the Chairman of the U.S. prisons, Charlton T. Lewis, the Frenchman Eduard Carpentier or the Spaniard Jose F. Rodriques were convinced that all prisons were academies of crime and recidivism, from which most criminals would come out "doctors in delinquency."4 The European and American penologists' concern for a large prison reform is old and persistent. Even since the midnineteenth century, regular meetings dedicated to this subject and with broad international participation were organized. …

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