Special populations

Female prisoners

4.4 % (3,077)

Variation in the number of female prisoners

increased by 31.5%

There were 2,436 women in prison as at 2017.

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

Percentage of untried female prisoners

5.1 %

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

Percentage of foreign female prisoners

2.2 %

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

Female prisoners are placed in facilities or units exclusively for women: Article 87, paragraph 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides for the separation of men and women in prison facilities.

There are only a few institutions dedicated to women.

  • the remand centre of Środa Wielkopolska only houses women, as does Lubliniec prison
  • Krzywaniec prison has a block for men with disabilities or who are undergoing addiction therapy but is otherwise exclusively for women
  • Warszawa-Grochów prison is primarily for women and has a block for female untried prisoners

Women are often placed far from their families and children, making it difficult to maintain family ties.

There is an effective separation between men and women


Men and women are housed separately but share the same exercise yards1.

  1. European Prison Observatory, “Prison conditions in Poland”, 2013, p. 19. 

Untried female prisoners are separated from the convicted


The prison staff is

predominantly male

Of the 2,831 public servants who work in prison blocks for women, 442 are women (figures from October 2018).

Women in Wrocław Prison were sexually assaulted by male inmates and prison officers. These assaults were organised by guards in exchange for money. The women were coerced with blackmail or threats of not receiving packages or being able to see their families if they did not cooperate. The abuse took place in empty cells, bathrooms and a chapel.

One woman reported that she was raped by a guard. These allegations were confirmed by other inmates as well as officers. The case was made public in 2017. Legal proceedings are currently ongoing.

Body searches are carried out by female staff. Male staff may perform searches that use technical devices such as metal detectors or security detectors.

Conjugal visits are allowed for women


Article 138 §1(3) of the Penal Enforcement Code allows conjugal visits, which are considered a type of reward.

Pregnant women are housed in specific units or cells


Polish prison legislation provides for the transfer of pregnant women to the obstetrics and gynaecology department of a hospital two months before the expected date of delivery (Paragraph 28.2 of the 2016 Regulation for executing custodial sentences).

The legislation provides for a sentence adjustment for pregnant women or women with young children


Chapter 6, paragraph 28 of the “Rules of the Ministry of Justice “ (in Polish) provides for a sentence adjustment for pregnant women.

Pregnant women receive proper prenatal care


A pregnant or nursing mother must receive specialised care, in compliance with Article 87-3 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Pregnant women benefit from special arrangements, such as the right to a longer walk (Article 112-1 of the Penal Enforcement Code) and the right to additional food purchases (Article 113a-1).
Article 148-2 of the Penal Enforcement Code prohibits the use of the following disciplinary sanctions on pregnant or nursing women:

  • solitary confinement
  • deprivation or limitation of the possibility of receiving a package
  • ban on buying food products

Childbirth takes place in

an external care establishment

Childbirth normally takes place in a civil hospital.
The number of childbirths in hospitals was:

  • 41 in 2015
  • 32 in 2016
  • 52 in 2017

According to 2015 reports, one childbirth took place in prison.

Security staff is prohibited from entering the room during labour and childbirth


Article 115 of the Penal Enforcement Code provides for the possibility of the presence of security staff during medical care. In practice, no cases have been reported in the past few years. The staff stand guard outside the delivery room.

Mothers are allowed to keep their children with them

yes, up to 3 years old

As long as it is medically feasible, a woman serving a custodial sentence can do so with her child (Article 87-4 of the Code of Criminal Procedure), with the father’s consent.

In the Grudziądz and Krzywaniec detention centres, there are blocks dedicated to mothers with young children. They include child-care centres staffed by individuals or inmates trained to care for children.

The security staff wear civilian clothing in the presence of children.

In 2016, the majority of convicted women were serving sentences for property-related offences (13,979), most often for theft (4,053). Public safety offences came in second (4,094), including drunk-driving (2,879). The third largest group is that of economic offences (2,641). The last category is that of offences against the credibility of documents, including making and using counterfeit documents (2,358)1.

  1. Central Board of the Prison Service, “Crime Data” (in Polish). 

The law bans the imprisonment of minors


The age of criminal liability is set at 17, although civil majority is 18.

Minimum age of imprisonment for minors

15 years old

In theory, 17-year-old minors cannot be imprisoned, but exemptions can be made from the age of 15, according to Article 10 of the Polish Penal Code.

Incarcerated minors

0.3 % (214)
/ Central Council of Penitentiary Services - Bureau of Information and Statistics

Variation in the number of incarcerated minors

an increase of 30%

163 minors were in prison in 2016.

Ministry in charge of incarcerated minors

The Ministry of Justice

Minors are subject to a specific justice system outlined by the Law on procedure in juvenile cases of 26 October 19821.

The detention facilities established by this law – reformatories, refuges, and educational centres – are generally adapted to the needs and circumstances of minors, although individual circumstances are not currently accorded much attention.

Alternative sentences to incarceration exist for minors. Restrictive sentences are preferable to custodial sentences, which should only be delivered as a last resort. Minors may also be placed in reintegration centres.

There are seven categories of prison facilities for juveniles:

  • correctional facilities
  • shelters
  • homes
  • police custody for juveniles
  • educational centres
  • psychiatric facilities (juvenile ward)
  • specialised social assistance homes

A judge may choose to place juveniles with adults (hapter 3, Paragraph 12 of the Regulation of the Minister of Justice of 29 December 2016).

Minors aged 17 or older who have committed offences are the most affected by this measure.

The CPT considers the material conditions of juveniles in he Białystok correctional facility satisfactory. Its cells, which are double- or triple-occupancy, measure approximately 15 m2. They are well equipped, with full bedding sets, chairs, tables, cupboards and shelves. The young inmates have satisfactory access to natural light, fresh air and enough artificial light. They may personalise their spaces with plants and photos. Pets are allowed. Each floor has sanitary facilities, a kitchen, a dining room, a common room with a television and games and an exercise room1.

  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. 43. 

Figures on minors in prison are published


Minors in prison are separated from adults

in most cases

Convicted minors of 18 are incarcerated in special facilities, which may house them until the age of 21, pursuant to Article 84-1 C.

The law provides for single cell accommodation for minors


The schooling of minors is compulsory


Article 66 of the Juvenile Justice Act (Ustawa o postępowaniu w sprawach nieletnich) states that general education and vocational training must be provided to all minors in detention and re-education centres. Education is compulsory until the age of 18, both in prison and out of prison. The Helsinki Foundation finds the prison administration’s efforts to provide access to education insufficient. For example, the administration does not allow minors to have computers, even for academic purposes. The CPT found the access to education for minors to be generally satisfactory, with educational training offered around 6 hours per day during the week and professional training such as construction and carpentry. The CPT found, however, that the training offered to minors was insufficient in the prisons of Bydgoszcz, Lublin et Szczecin1.

  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. 44. 

The law prohibits strip searches for minors


To maintain order and safety, the law provides for the possibility of subjecting minors and their belongings to searches.
The law regarding minors does not specify how these searches should be accomplished, leading to violations of the Polish constitution, as highlighted by the Commissioner for Human Rights in his 2015 annual report (in Polish).

The law forbids solitary confinement for minors


Minors may be placed in solitary confinement to prevent them from “hurting others or themselves” (Act on Coercive Measures).
The period of isolation may not exceed 48 hours and is limited to 12 hours for 14-year-olds (Article 27-1).
When the threat of force is not enough to prevent acts of violence or self-harm, other coercive measures, such as straitjackets, restraint belts and solitary confinement, are authorised. Medical isolation is used for safety reasons, even though the law prohibits it. The administration resorts to this measure for juveniles considered to be violent and/or troubled. The administration does not keep a central register of the coercive measures used on minors1.

Solitary confinement was used as a disciplinary measure 29 times in 2016.

  1. European Commission for the Prevention of Torture, “Report to the Polish Government on the visit to Poland from 11 to 22 May 2017”, 2018, pp. 45-47. 

Minors are allowed access to sport and recreation programmes in order to encourage their rehabilitation (Article 66 of the Juvenile Justice Act).
Minors can regularly play football, basketball and other competitive sports. The CPT suggests that the current daily outdoor exercise time for minors be changed from one hour to two hours1.

  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.44. 

The prison staff that supervises minors does not receive special training.

There is no information that indicates a lack of staff.

The CPT noted that there were no allegations of ill-treatment and that the minors spoke positively of the personnel.

In 2016, a staff member was attacked by a minor during a riot. In 2017, a minor stabbed another inmate1.

  1. European Commission for the Prevention of Torture, “Report to the Polish Government on the visit to Poland from 11 to 22 May 2017”, 2018, p. 43. 

Maintaining family ties:

Distance from the place of residence is not considered during placement.
Officially, in the juvenile detention centre of Bialystok, visits are on Sundays from 11:00 to 13:00. In reality, they are authorised every day. A dedicated space allows family and friends to stay in the centre over the weekend. This centre was visited by the CPT.

The young inmates can receive telephone calls every day. Permission to make calls is sometimes dependant on the completion of housework, for example, cleaning the floor. Some minors, questioned by the CPT, reported that they could not make calls due to a lack of time after the completion of the tasks imposed by the court1.


A climate of violence between minors was observed, which could lead to dangerous situations for them or for the staff.

The computer system “Libra PG” does not process data related to the procedures concerning ill-treatment of children in detention centres. Obtaining such data would require the consultation of records of all ongoing cases, including those available exclusively in the courts.

  1. European Commission for the Prevention of Torture, “Report to the Polish Government on the visit to Poland from 11 to 22 May 2017”, 2018, p. 47. 

Number and percentage of foreign prisoners

1.6 % (1,192)
/ Polish prison service via ICPR – World Prison Brief

Variation in the number of foreign prisoners

an increase of 41,9%

There were 662 incarcerated foreigners in 2016.

The most-represented foreign nationalities are: Ukrainian, Russian, Vietnamese, Romanian and Bulgarian.

The prison regulations are translated for foreign prisoners


The Ministry of Justice published a guide for foreign prisoners on their website. This document is available in 26 languages. It does not detail the situations specific to certain populations, such as the elderly or people with disabilities.

The Commissioner for Human Rights pointed out foreigners’ lack of access to basic knowledge about life in detention and their rights and obligations1.

  1. Commissioner for Human Rights, “2016 Annual Report”, 2017, pp.39-41 (in Polish). 

Foreign prisoners can be assisted by an interpreter

in some cases, court hearings

A foreigner deprived of liberty may be assisted by an interpreter for procedural acts, at any stage of the criminal proceedings. Foreigners in prison do not have access to interpreters and must rely on staff members if possible or even fellow inmates.
The prisons are gradually being fitted with more translation devices – 160 were purchased in the last few years1.

  1. Commissioner for Human Rights, “2016 Annual Report”, 2017, pp. 39-41 (in Polish). 

Foreign prisoners are entitled to legal aid


Foreign prisoners are entitled to legal aid while in remand detention, for court hearings (if they ask for it) and for disciplinary procedures. Like Polish prisoners, foreign prisoners are not assisted by a lawyer when a disciplinary sanction is being examined by the prison governor.

Illegal residence is not punishable with imprisonment, as it is an administrative infraction, though it can lead to being placed in a holding centre.

The court can order the payment of a fine. An administrative procedure is initiated to compel the foreigner to return to his country of origin. The ruling must specify the length of time that the person will be prohibited from visiting Poland, which can be anywhere from six months to three years.

Foreign prisoners are allowed to remain in the country after having served their sentence


At the end of their sentences, foreign prisoners are sent back to their country of origin. Their consent is required for a deportation before the end of their sentence (Article 608 of the Code of Criminal Procedure). Prisoners may request asylum if they believe their life could be in danger in their country of origin.

Foreign prisoners are allowed to work while incarcerated


The conditions regarding access to work are the same for all prisoners.

Foreign inmates can make international phone calls, but they must cover the costs themselves.

The system of sentence enforcement is the same for Polish citizens and for foreigners, though the prison administration may make special arrangements for foreigners, such as extended visits from relatives from far away.

The Commissioner for Human Rights noted discrimination against prisoners from the Traveller community. The NPM underlined foreign inmates’ repeated reports of discriminatory behaviour by the staff1.

  1. Commissioner for Human Rights, “2016 Annual Report”, 2017, pp. 160-161. 

A long-term sentence is considered as such as of

5 years

Cumulative sentences have a limit


Polish law does not allow cumulative prison sentences.

There are specific prison facilities for long-term prisoners


Individuals condemned to long sentences are excluded from cultural activities, work possibilities and training.
Until 2015, they were automatically classified as “dangerous” and were placed in a high-security block, in isolation, solely because of the length of their sentence.
Two condemnations from the ECHR Horych v. Poland and Pugžlys v. Poland brought an end to this practice1.

  1. Dr. Agnieszka Frackowiak et al, “Part IV Polish Report”, 2015, p. 6. 

Life sentences are banned


People serving a life sentence

0.5 % (397)
/ Prison service statistics

Variation in the number of people serving a life sentence

increased by 4.5%

There were 380 inmates executing life sentences in 2016.

A life sentence may be delivered in cases of treason, genocide, crimes against humanity, the use of weapons of mass destruction or any other war crime, homicide and assassination.

There are specific prison facilities for life-sentenced prisoners


A person condemned to a life sentence can request a sentence adjustment after 25 years. This period can be extended by the judge. The current Minister of Justice has proposed a Penal Code reform that would extend this period to 30 years.
Individuals sentenced to 25 years imprisonment may qualify for parole after 15 years.

Percentage of untried prisoners

13.1 % (9,108)

Variation in the number of untried prisoners

an increase of 10.4%

There were 7,239 persons awaiting trial in 2017.

Untried prisoners are separated from the convicted


Untried prisoners are placed in dedicated institutions or a separate block in an institution which houses both untried and convicted prisoners. The conditions of detention for untried prisoners are typically worse, with degraded cells and equipment due to the frequent changing of the prisoners.

The law provides for release on bail for untried prisoners


Pre-trial detention is limited to three months. This period can be extended to two years, depending on the nature of the offence. It can also be renewed twice, in exceptional cases. Pre-trial detention can be ordered in the following cases:

  • there is solid evidence of the defendant’s guilt
  • the person represents a threat to society
  • there is a significant risk of escape on the part of the accused
  • the person is likely to be punished with a long sentence

Pre-trial detention is almost automatic in cases of domestic violence.
The excessive use of pre-trial detention is a recurring problem in Poland, with several thousand cases reported every year. The ECHR delivered several condemnations for cases exceeding seven years.

As of 30 July 2017, eight individuals had been in pre-trial detention for over two years1.

  1. U.S. Department of State, “Poland 2017 Human Rights Report”, p. 6. 

The prisoner can appeal the decision for pre-trial detention. Several thousand individuals contest this placement each year, but few complaints come to a successful conclusion.

Untried prisoners do not have a special detention regime in line with the presumption of innocence. They are not allowed to make telephone calls and access to work and activities is limited.

Data collection about prisoners’ minority or indigenous background is allowed


This information is recorded during the inmate’s entrance interview.

Minority or indigenous backgrounds are criteria for specific cell or unit assignment

in some cases

The prison administration keeps inmates of the same religion together in order to guarantee access to religious services or special diets.

The specific needs of prisoners are taken into account with regard to

  • religion
  • dietary plan

The prosecution or imprisonment of a person on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity is banned


LGBTQI+ persons are separated from other prisoners


The NPM noted during a regular visit that a homosexual couple shared a cell until the staff became aware of it and separated them.

Assignment of transgender prisoners to a specific facility depends on

their biological sex

The possibility of transition is not taken into consideration during placement of an inmate.
Kampania Przeciw Homofobii (Campaign Against Homophobia) received a complaint from a transgender individual whose new sexual identity was not legally recognised. They were placed in a unit corresponding to the gender on their identity card.

Transgender prisoners benefit from specific health care


The situation of transgender individuals in prison is not taken into account. According to available information from Kampania Przeciw Homofobii, even the public and private health systems are not adapted to the specific needs of transgender individuals.

The situation of transgender individuals in prison is not taken into account. According to available information from Kampania Przeciw Homofobii, even the public and private health systems are not adapted to the specific needs of transgender individuals.

The prison service keeps a record of elderly prisoners


Number and percentage of elderly prisoners

3.8 % (2,796)

The number of elderly inmates increased by 8.9% compared to 2016. There were 2 567 elderly inmates that year.

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

Elderly individuals do not receive special care. The Penal Code only marks a difference between two age groups: young inmates aged 15 to 21, and adults. There are no specific regulations regarding the sentences of elderly individuals. The Commissioner for Human Rights receives many complaints about health services in prison. However, feedback from elderly prisoners tends to be positive. Hospital areas for treating patients with chronic illnesses are not equipped to receive prisoners, and the only prison hospital which treats chronic illnesses has space for 36 individuals. The wait time is three years.

The law does not provide for the early release of elderly prisoners. Age is not considered to be a criterion that justifies sentence adjustment, deferment or suspension. The court can, pursuant to Article 153-1 of the Penal Enforcement Code, suspend imprisonment in the case of serious illness.

Prison facilities are adapted to the needs of prisoners with disabilities

some establishments

Sixty or so establishments are suitable for inmates with disabilities. According to the Commissioner for Human Rights, the blocks designed for prisoners with disabilities do not allow them to function autonomously1.

Access to suitable infrastructure by individuals with disabilities is generally insufficient. These individuals are frequently subjected to humiliating situations.

Staff members are usually untrained in caring for inmates with disabilities.

  1. Commissioner for Human Rights, «2016 Annual Report», 2017, pp. 24-26. 

Some inmates may be required to help inmates in wheelchairs get around the prison. The administration does not take into account prisoners with disabilities. The 3 m² required per person in a cell are insufficient for the use of a wheelchair. Individuals with disabilities are not necessarily placed on the ground floor and may even be assigned a bunk bed. They have limited access to common areas, showers and outdoor spaces.

Prisoners with disabilities are sometimes subject to ill-treatment on the part of other inmates. For example, some take away their wheelchairs, though others willingly help them get around.

Reintegration programs are not adapted to the needs of individuals with disabilities.

The Bydgoszcz Fordon prison has a block for blind individuals, who share their cells with other inmates chosen to guide and help them.

Death penalty is abolished

yes, since 1997

The last execution took place in 1988 in Kraków, when Stanisław Czabański was executed by hanging. A moratorium on the death penalty was announced in 1995. The new Penal Code of 1997 abolished the death penalty. The measure came into effect on 1 September 1998. The death penalty was replaced by life sentences.

The restoration of the death penalty is not currently subject to debate. The last public personality to present such a proposition was President Lech Kaczynski in 2006. He did not receive enough support to continue to defend the measure.