The jurisprudence of the Constitution—Roumanian courts—The Code Napoléon—Complaints of patronage—The penal system—Capital punishment abolished—History and effect of the abolition—Statistics—The prison system—Abuses—Enumeration of prisons—Employment of convicts—Ornamental art amongst them—Objects made by them—Absence of educational measures—Criminal statistics (and note)—Visit to the 'intermediate' prison of Vakareschti—An old monastery—Description of the prison—Scene in the court-yard—Untried prisoners in fetters—Promiscuous intercourse of prisoners—Mischievous effects—Views of a 'juge d'instruction' concerning the system—Various classes of prisoners—Lenient treatment of them—Partial employment—Safeguards against mutiny—Visit to the penal salt mine of Doftana (or Telega)—Former treatment of prisoners—A lingering death—Present treatment—Conditions of penal servitude—Compared with work of our colliers—Abuses—Descent into the mine—Its condition—Unearthly sounds and sights—Enormous salt cave—Floor of the cave—Convicts at work in chains—Mode of excavating and raising salt—Lighting the mine for visitors—Return to the surface—Visit to the penitentiary—Its discreditable condition—Alleged frauds upon convicts—General mild treatment of criminals in Roumania—Utilisation of convict labour—Comparison of cost and results of systems in Roumania and England—Favourable to Roumania.


As in the case of education, so, too, in regard to its judicial and penal system, the Constitution of Roumania contains many admirable provisions (articles 13, 18, 104, 105, &c.) for the maintenance of right and the suppression of wrong-doing. Equal rights, ordinary tribunals, speedy trial by jury, abolition of death punishment, these are the excellent principles upon which the judicial system is based; but neither there, nor for that matter in any country, are they completely put into practice. There is one Court of Cassation with sections, and a Court of Accounts at Bucarest, Courts of Appeal at Bucarest, Jassy, Craiova, and Focsany, and minor tribunals in the chief town of each district. The French Code of Jurisprudence is adopted, with modifications which would not interest our readers; but the penal system is somewhat unique, and is well worthy of a closer study and consideration. Of the miserable accommodation for the exercise of judicial authority in Bucarest we have already spoken in describing the capital. Lawsuits are very tedious; whether more so than in England we are unable to say. Great complaint exists of patronage in the appointment of judges, most of whom are comparatively young men and political partisans. This it is proposed to remedy by what would practically be popular election; whether the cure would be any better than the disease is questionable. The penal system, as we found it carried out in Roumania, is mild, utilitarian, and slovenly; and if all that was told us be true, we fear we must add that it is by no means free from corruption.

The chief points of interest to Englishmen are the absence of capital punishment and the substitution of forced labour for life, or for a long term of years, and the utilisation of penal labour in the salt mines and elsewhere. Capital punishment ceased de facto in 1852; for although it was not legally abolished, neither the then ruler, Prince Stirbey, nor his successor, Prince Couza, who governed the joint Principalities, would sign a death-warrant. It was legally abrogated in 1865, and the Constitution of 1866 declares that it cannot be re-established, excepting for military offences. No increase, but rather a diminution, of capital crimes has taken place since the change was effected; for although the population has doubled in the towns, where homicidal crime is most frequent, the number of offences has not materially increased. The following figures prove this statement:—

Total Committals and Convictions for Homicide.

Year Committals Convictions
1869 248 185
1870 249 154
1871 267 140
1872 327 204
1873 455 258
1874 258 167
1875 236 169
1876 386 250
1877 307 187

The punishment for murder with malice aforethought is now penal servitude for life, other phases of homicide five to twenty years, in both cases mine labour. In cases of infanticide, if the offspring is illegitimate it ranks as manslaughter. The following is a condensed summary, with brief comments of our own in parenthesis, of a report on the prison system which was kindly furnished to us by the Roumanian Inspector of Prisons, a zealous, well-meaning, and most courteous official, as are all Roumanian officials.