Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons season 3, episode 3 recap: Romania: ‘Gypsy’ Prison


Episode 303 of Netflix series Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons looks at a so-called “Gypsy prison” in Craiova, Romania. The prisoners are tough, but so is the prison.

Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons takes us to Craiova, Romania, to a prison dominated by the excluded Roma community.

Host Raphael Rowe is no stranger to prison, having spent 12 years behind bars before having his name cleared. However, each prison he visits now has something unique, unexpected.

In Craiova’s prison, about 60% of inmates are Roma, even though they only make up 3% of the country’s population.

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Why are they considered discriminated against? Rowe reminds us that, aside from the incarceration rate itself,  Romas were slaves until the mid-19th century.

Before entering prison, he first speaks with a family of Kalderari metal-workers, to learn some controversial aspects of their culture. In addition to social exclusions, they have arranged child marriages.

Also, feuds are said to be a big part of their culture.

Entering prison

As is routine, Raphael Rowe faces a strip search and then must fill out a bunch of forms. Although he spends a short amount of time investigating, it’s said they put new inmates under quarantine for 21 days.

Quickly he learns how the inmates feel about the place. One says, “Dogs deserve better treatment than this,” and Raphael learns there have been riots due to poor conditions, including overcrowding. An inmate named Armand shows him around.

In the process, Rowe thinks the prison may have been cleared of some inmates for a better image for the cameras. Armand is imprisoned for attempted murder, in a dispute over money.

It’s apparent that at least sometimes, whole families are targeted in patterns of cultural revenge.

Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons shows us ways in which inmates communicate. They sometimes pass “lines” — bits of fabric tied together — from window to window. These can contain messages, cigarettes or other contraband.

Fortunately, inmates may have a chance of improving their lives. Raphael Row visits the prison shoe workshop, where inmates can earn income and get time off their sentence. Given the 50% unemployment rate, it’s beneficial for anyone to potentially learn a trade.

Rowe also meets inmate Dragusin Saban in the kitchen. He is doing 14 years for rape. Rowe reminds us that many prisons segregate sex offenders, so it’s somewhat odd to see one working freely in the kitchen.

Either way, it could be hellish to be with 20 prisoners in a room for 20 hours, with or without needing segregation. Another inmate, Michael, gets time off his sentence and small pay for working the kitchen. He’s facing 25 years for killing his wife and her lover.

Football tennis

Next, Rowe plays a unique game called “football tennis” with Armand. Shortly thereafter, they discuss issues faced by Roma, like poor education and a perceived weak worth ethic (Roma are said to favor independence).

One inmate mentions an arranged marriage at the age of 13 (when many Westerners are still only learning about love, sex and life in general). They see it as part of a tradition to keep their clans alive. Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons doesn’t particularly judge the culture, but notes how it clashes heavily with Romanian society in general.

Of course, not everyone in prison is the same. Gulie Florian, of the Rudari ethnic minority, is in prison after he killed an MMA boxer. He claims the press destroyed him by calling him a “Gypsy.”

Maximum security

In the maximum security section, inmates are under increased surveillance. There is barely any space in a cell, and prisoners may spend 23 hours a day in one for years at a time. Rowe tells us, “You need to feel this space to understand how oppressive it is.” Here he meets Marius Burican.

Marius is not Roma but has Roma friends. He is serving a 22-year sentence for killing a Bulibasha “Gypsy King” clan leader with a machete. He is now a prison barber and says, “So what if it upsets them?”

Later, Armand meets two of his kids and his wife Ancuta. They both seem resigned to their fates, and Armand expressed no remorse for his crime.


Marin Colata, the prison governor, indicates he doesn’t want to gather statistics on the Roma prisoners, which Raphael Rowe finds absurd.

How can imprisonment be prevented among their community if it’s not being studied? Then again, one could possibly see Colata’s point. If they are singled out for research, it could be construed as a form of special treatment.

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Rowe suggests a lack of education contributes to high incarceration rates. For most Roma, school is considered “gadje,” or a non-traditional way. According to Rowe, only 7% of Roma have secondary education. He finds it encouraging to see inmate Gulie Florian enthusiastic about learning.

What are your thoughts on this Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons episode? Let us know in the comments!