Romania takes tough stance on "prison books"

Romania takes tough stance on
"Prison books" on display at Romania's National Library
By bne IntelliNews August 25, 2016

The Romanian government has acted to close a loophole that had allowed prisoners to substantially reduce their sentences by publishing academic works from jail.

The decision follows revelations that some prisoners wrote “scientific works” in very short periods of time, sometimes on topics they were not familiar with, raising suspicions that they had employed ghostwriters. For each work published, their sentence was cut by 30 days.

On August 24, the government approved a decision that clarifies the procedure limiting the number of days by which prisoners who write books or patent inventions can reduce their sentences, local media reported.

According to the government’s decision, prisoners who write scientific works or patent inventions while in prison can reduce their sentence by up to 20 days, irrespective of the number of books they write, reported.

In addition, the National Council of Scientific Research has to assess the work. The assessors will not be aware of the prisoner’s identity, and the prisoner’s activity while writing the book will be monitored. The new rules will be effective from August 31.

Until now, prisoners have only needed a recommendation from a university teacher and no other assessment to qualify for the sentence reduction based on their academic work.

A full list of the prison books from the ministry of justice, published by earlier this year, shows that in the last three years 188 inmates published more than 400 books in order to have their sentences reduced.

Among the most prolific was one of Romania’s richest men, Dan Voiculescu, who penned no less than 10 books since he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for money laundering in 2014. Publication of these works which include “Mankind, whither?” and “Sustainable economic development”, have allowed him to reduce his prison term by almost a year.

Another businessman, Dinel Staicu, convicted of fraud, is also the author of 10 books mainly on tax issues.

Many of the books listed are on football, reflecting the arrests of several owners, managers and agents in a wide-reaching probe into tax evasion connected to illegal player transfers in 2014. Those who have written their way to shorter sentences include the former manager of Romania’s top club Steau Bucharest, Mihai Stoica, the author of “Competition” and “Ultimate 11”.

The club’s owner, businessman and politician George Becali has also written several books including a profile of himself and his club, and - more surprisingly - “Mount Athos, home of Orthodoxy”. Becali was sentenced in 2013 over two land swaps that a court ruled caused over $800,000 worth of losses to the Romanian state.