Daily life

All prisoners are entitled to spend at least one hour a day in the open air


In closed units, prisoners spend one hour on a walk a day and one in a common room.

Detainees have access to a common room:

  • three times a week in Lublin prison,
  • two times a week in the prisons of Bydgoszcz and Szczecin,
  • once a week in the prisons of Warsaw-Grochów and Warsaw-Mokotów (common rooms equipped with television, and board games).

Access to the boardwalk cannot be restricted.

The prison service offers activities to prisoners

in some establishments

Very few activities are proposed by the prison administration :

  • The daily walk (one hour) is sometimes the only physical activity of the prisoners.
  • Detainees sometimes have access to the gym that can be used for more than one hour.
  • Possibility to do outdoor sports like volleyball and football instead of the boardwalk.

The opportunities to participate in activities, such as sport recreations and associations, are insufficient in remand centres. The CPT recommends to develop the appropriate facilities in remand centres 1.

  1. European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, “Report to the Polish Government on the visit to Poland from 11 to 22 May 2017”, 2018, p.34. 

There are designated places for physical activities and sports


In most units, there are recreation rooms for sports activities, and a large part of them has independent sports fields.

Prisoners prefer sports such as football, basketball and martial arts (mainly boxing). Prisoners also have the opportunity to participate in Nordic walking classes, running (they arise a runner’s clubs) and canoeing (in the Czarne Prison). This last sport is combined with ecological activities like cleaning forests and river banks). Gym classes are also of great interest, although the lack of qualified trainers should be considered a weakness.

Participation of the convict in sports requires obtaining both administrative and medical consent.

Consent usually covers the possibility of a prisoner participating in sports activities no more than twice a week for two hours (or additionally on non-working days).

There are designated places for cultural activities


Cultural activities are rare. Meetings with authors, a reading club or audiobooks sessions can sometimes be organized.

The SOC in Biala Podlaska provides classes in: first aid, language, intercultural psychology, law and human rights1.

  1. Commissioner for Human Rights, “Annual Report 2016”, 2017, p. 160. 

Prison facilities have a library


Prisons usually have several thousand books provided by public libraries. There is, however, a lack of books in foreign languages.

Prisoners can be banned of participation in cultural activities as a disciplinary punishment measure.

Work is compulsory


The issuance of a work permit can be a form of rewards for inmates with exemplary behaviour. Professional activities can take place inside and outside prisons.

Number and percentage of prisoners who work

48.6 % (35,847)

15,925 paid positions and 19,922 unpaid positions.

/ Central Council of Penitentiary Services - Bureau of Information and Statistics

Variation in the number of prisoners who work

an increase

/ Central Council of Penitentiary Services - Bureau of Information and Statistics

The number of working inmates has significantly increased in the recent years. 35.5% of inmates were employed in 2015. They were 46.2% in March 2017. Between these two dates, 2,613 paid jobs and 1,000 unpaid jobs were created.
In Strzelce Opolskie prison, around 40% of inmates have paid positions and around 20% have unpaid positions. In Warsaw-Bialoleka Remand Prison, there are 480 sentenced prisoners working out of 1,120 inmates.
However, there are far less opportunities to work for remand prisoners. In Bialystok Remand prison, 37 inmates have a paid job out of 509 detainees1.

This overall increase is due to a government programme based on three points: the construction of 40 manufactures near the prisons, the development of unpaid jobs for local authorities and the creation of tax credits for business which employ prisoners2.

  1. European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, “Report to the Polish Government on the visit to Poland carried from 11 to 22 May 2017”, 2018, p.34. 

  2. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, “Improving Prison Conditions by Strengthening the Monitoring of HIV, HCV, TB and Harm Reduction”, 2015, p.15. 

The prison director organises job distribution by attributing work permit to inmates he considers to be best suited to work. Inmates have the possibility to do unpaid work on behalf of the prison (help cleaning, cooking, meal distribution) or the government, local authorities, local charities and educational organisations if this is done in a civic dimension (no more than 90 hours per month).

This system is sometimes perverted. Newsweek reports in January 2015 that detainees at Lowicz and Garbalin prisons were allegedly employed by A2 Motorway as unpaid workforce, under the guise that the production was intended for local authorities

Maximum daily/weekly working hours are set, including at least one day of rest


The daily work must not exceed eight hours a day.

Prisoners are paid for their work

in some cases

Inmates can receive salary for paid work. They can also be employed for unpaid work. This latter employment is legal up to 90 hours per month for ‘a good cause’ to the benefit of a delimited list of authorities or public companies.

Salaries are

significantly below the national minimum wage

The gross minimum wage in prison is the same as outside but it is very heavily taxed: from 77.56% to 99.72%. An inmate earning $ 512 (2000 PLN), only reaches $ 1,44 (5,62 PLN)1.

  1. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, “Report on the Human Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty”, 2017, p.17. 

Prisoners are paid on a piecework basis


The calculation of salary depends on the type of work.

Their income is subject to social contributions


They have to pay for social security, retirement, and unemployment.

Prisoners have the right to join trade unions


The attitude of the inmate while serving a penalty, including the work, is one of the reasons for granting parole.

Authority(ies) in charge of education and vocational training

Ministry of Education

Prisoners enrolled in educational training

2.1 % (1,521)
Schoolyear 2016/2017 / Central Council of Penitentiary Services - Bureau of Information and Statistics

Education is provided

in all establishments

According to the article 102 of the Penal Code, prisoners have the possibility of attending a school curriculum. All grade levels are offered from elementary school to university. Most of the detainees who benefit from these courses are minors.

According to the article 131 of the Penal Code, prisoners have the possibility to attend classes outside the prison. This opportunity is, in practice, only offered to a small minority of prisoners.

Sometimes, the prison administration complicates or even prevents access to education. For example, prisoners are denied access to a computer in their cells, even if computers do not offer the possibility of communicating with the outside. The administration justifies its decision based on the imperatives of security1.

  1. Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, “Report on the Human Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty”, 2017, pp. 20-21. 

Education is available for all prisoners


The prison service implements measures to fight illiteracy


The administration does not establish a program to address illiteracy. However, all prisoners are accompanied in order to define their difficulties and needs. This assessment might indicate that an inmate is required to attend specifics courses.

Prisoners are allowed to pass diplomas and entry examinations


They can obtain university degrees.

Number and percentage of prisoners enrolled in vocational training

3.8 % (2,809)
Schoolyear 2016/2017 / Central Council of Penitentiary Services - Bureau of Information and Statistics

Vocational training is provided


Inmates can enroll in training courses to become painter, cook, electrician, tiler, roofer, locksmith, mechanic, carpenter and landscape gardener, amongst other.

Vocational training is available for all prisoners


Distance courses are available


Before the end of the sentence, inmates must meet with a tutor that prepares the person’s release. All inmates must attend this pre-release meeting. However, these reintegration programs are not considered to be of good quality and do not have a real educational impact.

Prisoners have access to a television

yes, purchased

The rules on access to television vary from one institution to another. Sometimes prisoners are allowed to watch television but only during authorized hours.

Prisoners have access to a radio


Inmates are allowed to listen to the radio.

Prisoners have access to the press


The prison service allows access to Internet

in most establishments

Inmates have access to a certain number of websites, although some remain inaccessible. Prisoners can use the Internet to communicate with their families and relatives. This modality is mainly intended for foreign inmates.

The Prison Service does not censor the content of the press. Inmates can purchase newspapers in the canteen or subscribe on their own. In some prisons there is a free local press distributed.

The religion which is the most represented in detention is Catholicism.

Prisoners are free to practice their religion and follow their beliefs


Dedicated places of worship are available

in all establishments

Each prison defines the hours to access the chapel as well as the days and hours of mass.

There are chaplains in the prisons

varies depending on the religion

Only the most represented religions receive visits from chaplains. These visits are at the initiative of the interveners and not at the initiative of the prison administration.

The prison service remunerates the chaplains


Religious activities are organized exclusively on a voluntary basis.

There is no policy to prevent radicalisation in Polish prisons.

Individuals or organisations from the outside are allowed to participate in prison activities


The opportunities for associations to intervene in prisons are limited, although allowed by law.

Authorisations for external actors to take part in prison activities are provided by

the prison governor

The most common fields of intervention are: accompaniment after release, educative and psychosocial activities and religious support.

Volunteer organizations do not receive public funding.

Prisoners are allowed to make use of financial resources


Financial resources are accessible

in an account

The circulation of cash is forbidden in prison. According to the article 113 of the Penal Executive Code, prisoners must transfer their money to a deposit or a selected bank account.

At the request of the prisoner, some funds can be transferred by an outside person. The prisoner can use these credentials to make purchases in prison.

The remaining balance is given to the prisoner upon release or when they have an exit permit or if they are temporally released.

Destitute prisoners receive financial or in-kind support


According to the article 114 of the Penal Executive Code, prisoners who do not work and do not have financial resources may receive an allowance from the director of the unit.

There are also some organizations, most of them religious, that provide clothing or food to destitute inmates.

Prisoners are allowed to discuss matters relating to their conditions of imprisonment


In multi-persons living cells, one inmate is designated to inform the prison service staff about the needs of fellow inmates and the state of the equipment.

Prisoners have the right of association


Prisoners have the right to vote


The administration is the only one allowed to express itself on the detention conditions in the media.
At Bydgoszcz, Lublin and Warsaw-Mokotów Remand Prisons, an internal radio system transmits music and a program produced by inmates.