Living conditions

The law establishes a minimum standard for living space per prisoner


Article 100 of the Penal Enforcement Code explains that the minimum surface area per inmate per cell is 3 m².
In extraordinary circumstances and with the approval of the prison governor, an inmate may have only 2 m² for a period of 90 days.
The CPT sets a minimum regional standard of 4 m² per inmate.
In 2016, the NPM noted the need to increase the minimum surface area per inmate to 4 m², pointing out the increase in assaults due to overpopulation.

Prisoners are accommodated in single cells

in some cases

Individual cells are sometimes offered as rewards.

Prisoners sleep on

bunk beds

Cells are fitted with bunk beds, shelves, tables, stools, sometimes toilets and access to hot water.
Chapter 6, Paragraph 29 of the Regulation of the Ministry of Justice states that “a residential cell should be equipped with a bed for each convict, adapted to the number of prisoners the number of tables, cupboards and stools and means to keep the cell clean.”

There are no rules which specify the dimensions of windows.
In more recent establishments, the windows can open completely.

In older prisons, the windows do not let in much light. This is also the case in cells reserved for prisoners deemed dangerous in the Bydgoszcz and Lublin prisons.

The cells/dormitories are provided with electric lighting


The auxiliary electric lighting is sometimes insufficient for reading, especially in the block for “dangerous” inmates in the Lublin prison.

The cells/dormitories are equipped with heating and/or air conditioning

yes, heating

Prisoners can smoke

in their cell

Smokers and non-smokers are assigned to separate cells.

Prisoners who are well-off have better imprisonment conditions. They are rarely placed in dirty and neglected communal cells.

Material conditions vary considerably from one institution to the next, depending on when they were built.

Beds and sanitary facilities are sometimes in a deplorable state. Inmates complain of the presence of pests, particularly in Bydgoszcz Prison. The CPT denounces the state of Warsaw-Grochów Prison.

The Bialystok remand centre is in very bad shape: the cells are dilapidated, poorly lit with little ventilation.

Other cells are in satisfactory shape: clean, well-lit, well-ventilated and fitted with sanitary facilities. They are equipped with single beds or bunk beds, a table, stools, wall shelves and a call bell. This is the case in the remand centres of Warsaw-Bialoleka, Warsaw-Sluzewiec and Gliwice, which is undergoing renovation, and in the prison n°2 of Strzelce Opolskie.

Most of the institutions visited by the CPT in 2017 must be renovated, and such renovations are typically planned or ongoing1.

  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, pp. 5, 32-33. 

Prisoners have access to water

in their cell

Sinks are sometimes located outside of cells. Overpopulation makes it difficult to access shared water sources such as sinks.

Showers are located in the cells/dormitories

in some establishments

The location of showers varies widely between establishments.
Some communal showers do not have curtains, affecting individual privacy.
Three of the establishments visited by the Commissioner for Human Rights were not fitted with closed toilet stalls. They are separated by damaged curtains which are not suited to the dimensions of the door. In four of the establishments visited, devices that could ensure privacy have not be en properly installed1.

In 2015, the ECHR ruled in favour of a plaintiff who cited the lack of privacy in the showers of the Wronki prison. The ECHR decided that it was a violation of privacy (Szafranski v. Poland).

  1. Commissioner for Human Rights, «2016 Annual Report», 2017, pp 28-29. 

The regulations of the Ministry of Justice allot 10 minutes for showers, but their actual durations vary from one establishment to the next, from 5 to 15 minutes.
Men are allowed one shower per week, two if they perform manual labour, but access is not always guaranteed.
Women may shower two times per week.

Sanitary facilities are clean, adequate and accessible


The location of toilets depends on the establishment and when it was built. Renovation work of sanitary facilities is ongoing in the older prisons. Communal spaces are overloaded and their ventilation insufficient.

There are not enough toilets – they can just as easily be assigned to two people as to nine or fourteen. The shortage of toilets is a source of conflict.

The Commissioner for Human Rights noted, in Biala Podlaska and Krosno Odrzańskie, the lack of privacy in the sanitary facilities of blocks housing foreigners. The height of the partitions between toilets and showers was insufficient[^2].
[^2]: Commissioner for Human Rights, «2016 Annual Report», 2017.

The prison service provides personal hygiene products free of charge


Personal hygiene products are low-quality. Men receive 100 g of soap per month (women, 200 g), two razors, 60 g of toothpaste, 100 ml of shampoo and two rolls of toilet paper.

The prison service provides cleaning products free of charge


In 2013, a delegation from the CPT received complaints about the lack of detergent in the Lublin prison.

Beddings are refreshed

yes, once a month

The administration provides clothing to destitute prisoners. In high-security institutions, the inmates wear orange prison uniforms.

Inmates help maintain the cleanliness of common areas. They are not paid for this work.

In some establishments, rubbish is sorted. It is collected daily, except on weekends. Rubbish management is determined by the internal regulations of each establishment.

Drinking water is free and available in all areas of the facilities


Number of meals per day


Inmates receive one hot meal per day. The head of the establishment sets mealtimes. The time between meals must not exceed six hours.

Daily cost of meals per prisoner

The daily cost of meals was €1.10 in 2013. 30% of this budget was allocated to breakfast, 40% to lunch, and 30% to dinner.

30% of this budget is allocated to the breakfast, 40% to the lunch and 30% to the dinner.

Food services are managed by

  • the administration
  • private food services

Meals are most often prepared by the staff of the prison administration and trained inmates, as individuals deprived of liberty may work for free to help manage the prison. Meals are sometimes delivered by a private company.

The prison service is required to meet nutritional standards regarding quality and quantity


The Commissioner for Human Rights received a considerable number of complaints regarding the quality, quantity and variety of food.

The prison service provides food that respects special dietary needs


The regulation of the Ministry of Justice on the nutrition of prisoners suggests the following diets:

  • diet adapted to age (under 18, over 18)
  • diet adapted to state of health (typical diet for a sick inmate, easy to digest, diabetic, personalised, etc.)
  • diet adapted to the nature of a job
  • diet adapted to religious beliefs

Particular diets for health and religious reasons are generally composed of 10-15% protein, under 30% fat and 50-65% carbohydrates per meal.

Jewish and Buddhist prisoners do not always have access to suitable diets (cf. ECHR, Jakóbski v. Poland, 7 December 2010).

Prisoners eat their meals in

their cell

Prisoners can buy food products


nmates may buy food and tobacco three times per month. Pregnant women can buy specific food products. The prices are, on average, 10% higher than outside of prison.

Prisoners can have access to a refrigerator

in some establishments

Prisoners are allowed to cook in their cells or in a shared space


In some open facilities, prisoners are allowed to cook in their cells.

Prisoners are allowed to receive food parcels


Packages may not exceed five kilogrammes.