In Romania white-collar prisoners outsmart professors

EPA/ROBERT GHEMENT

A view of the first wall painted by inmates, surrounding the Jilava Penitentiary building, near Bucharest, Romania, 28 February 2013. Jilava penitentiary may be one of the city’s oldest, as well as most infamous, prisons, but it boasts one of the most progressive programmes of rehabilitation for its inmates thanks to a grant from Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway through the EEA Financial Mechanism.

… or perhaps money talks, even in prison


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There is an old Victor Hugo quote that goes “ he who opens a school, closes a prison.” That is not quite true in Romania, apparently.

As of August 2014, a Romanian media oligarch, Dan Voiculescu, is serving 10 years in prison for corruption. While in prison, he took to science, and with no less than eight publications, he could be moving from business to academia. Apparently, he is not alone, Guardian reports.

Romanian law shaves a month in prison for every publication of scientific value. In the Voiculescu case, that is eight months. With a thriving ghostwriting business and an army of lawyers, white collar criminals take advantage of every loophole, implicitly mocking what is widely regarded as a genuine crackdown on corruption. Prisons in Romania publish more than universities these days.

According to the prison authorities, 415 publications were published by prisoners since 2013, which is equal to 12,450 days or 34,6 years less prison time. To put this into perspective, between 2012 and 2014, the West University of Timișoara, recently nominated for a Research Excellence Award, published 1077 documents from 660 authors: that is 1,6 publication per author over a period of two years. Obviously, Mr. Voiculescu could take on any professor, any time.

In this sense, prisons do publish more than otherwise excellent universities, although of course there is nothing like the promise of freedom as a motivating factor. Of course there have been the odd accusations for plagiarism, which is not unknown to academia or indeed political circles.

The current anti-corruption campaign in Romania is serious by any measure. Run by the now famous DNA anti-corruption agency, it is said that up to a third of Romania’s political elite is prosecuted or under investigation. Big money is also under tight scrutiny. Romania ranks 69th in the corruption perceptions index of transparency international, at par with Italy and Greece. However, money talks, even in prison, everywhere.

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