Daily life

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


In closed facilities, inmates are allowed one hour of walking per day.
Common rooms, fitted with a television set and board games, are present in some establishments. The inmates have access to them:

  • three times per week in the Lublin prison
  • two times per week in the Bydgoszcz and Szczecin prisons
  • once a week in the Warsaw-Grochów and Warsaw-Mokotów prisons

The prison service offers activities to prisoners

in some establishments

The activities on offer are limited to:

  • daily walks, for one hour, are sometimes the only physical activity
  • the gymnasium is occasionally accessible

Recreational sports and group activities are lacking in remand centres. The CPT recommends developing facilities for this purpose1.

  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


Most establishments have exercise rooms and playing fields. Sports are generally played twice per week for two hours or more on weekends. Football, basketball and martial arts (especially boxing) are the most-enjoyed activities.
The Czarne prison combines sporting activities practiced outside of the establishment, such as canoeing or Nordic walking, with ecological activities, such as cleaning up forests or riverbanks.
Inmates can also participate in Nordic walking classes, running classes or clubs, and canoeing classes (in the Czarne prison). Canoeing is combined with ecological activities. Exercise classes are of great interest, although the lack of qualified trainers must be considered a negative point.
The participation in sporting activities is subject to medical and administrative authorisation.

The NPM reports, in 2022, that at the Warsaw-Białołęka jail, the exercise yard surface was cracked, which made movement difficult for prisoners with reduced mobility. There was no appropriate roofing in place apart from a small partial cover made from plastic panels. The yards were enclosed within a concrete wall with metal wire across the top. There were two outdoor strength training equipment areas but they were not available to prisoners every day. One of the yards measured 20.1 m² and had no exercise equipment or sports play areas. Strzelce Opolskie Prison No. 2 had volleyball and basketball courts. Prisoners could take part in sports club activities, such as an 1 hr 45 mins cardio training, once a week.1

There are designated places for cultural activities

in some establishments

Cultural activities are rare, but meetups with authors, book clubs or audiobook listening sessions can sometimes be organised.

A variety of activities were available in prison communal areas and these varied from prison to prison. In one case, NPM noted that the communal space was also used by staff for administrative tasks. Other rooms had televisions, table tennis tables, table football, computer games, musical instruments and exercise equipment available. Time spent in communal spaces was limited. For example, at the Warsaw-Białołęka jail, prisoners could only go to these areas between one and four times per week, and at Strzelce Opolskie Prison No. 2, the communal space was open for 1.5 hours per day.1

Prison facilities have a library


Prisons typically have several thousand books, which are provided by public libraries, but there are an insufficient number of books in foreign languages.

  • Authorities report that 62% of prisoners state that they have access to the library at least once a month, and 18% have regular access over periods of several months.

    / Service de protection de la société, traitement humain et licite des personnes privées de liberté et réinsertion sociale des condamnés

As a disciplinary measure, inmates may be prohibited from taking part in cultural activities.

Work is compulsory


The issuing of a work permit is often a form of reward for inmates with model behaviour. Work may take place inside or outside the prison.

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 governor organises job assignments. He grants work permits to the prisoners he deems most fit for work. Inmates have the opportunity to complete unpaid work on behalf of the prison (cleaning, helping in the kitchen or with meal distribution), the government, local authorities, local charities or educational organisations. This work must include a civic element and may not exceed 90 hours per month.

These arrangements can sometimes be abused. In January 2015, Newsweek reported that inmates in the Lowicz and Garbalin prisons were employed to construct the A2 autoroute as unpaid workers, on the pretext that this project was for local governments.

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


The maximum number of daily work hours is eight.

Prisoners are paid for their work

in some cases

Inmates do not all receive a salary for their work. Unpaid jobs are done for “a good cause”, on behalf of a set list of authorities or for public companies. They must not exceed 90 hours per month.

Salaries are

significantly below the national minimum salary

The minimum gross salary in prison is the same as outside of prison. However, it is taxed between 77.56% and 99.72%. An inmate paid $512 (PLN 2000) each month would only receive $1.44 (PLN 5.62)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


Their income is subject to social contributions


Inmates contribute to social security, unemployment and retirement.

Prisoners have the right to join trade unions


The behaviour of the inmate, including at work, is a potential reason for 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

Article 102 of the Penal Code guarantees the opportunity to receive education. All levels are offered, from primary school to university. Most of the inmates who profit from these courses are minors.

Article 131 of the Penal Code guarantees the opportunity to receive education outside of the prison. In practice, this opportunity is only offered to a select few inmates.

The prison administration does not always foster access to education. Access to computers, even without Internet, is not allowed in cells. The administration justifies this decision with security concerns1.

  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 have a programme to combat illiteracy. However, all inmates are assisted in order to identify their difficulties and needs. These evaluations could lead to the inmate being required to take certain courses.

Prisoners are allowed to pass diplomas and entry examinations


Inmates 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


The vocational training which is offered results in trained painters, cooks, electricians, tile-layers, roofers, locksmiths, mechanics, carpenters and landscapers.

The therapeutic service at the Wołów prison provided training programmes to prisoners suffering from non-psychotic mental health disorders. Prisoners could learn how to repair damaged book collections from the prison library, creating new covers, decorating the bindings or creating bindings for internal documents for the prison administration. These activities enabled prisoners to acquire practical, professional skills. They prepared incarcerated persons for professional reintegration and used occupational therapy techniques, using specific, time-consuming tasks that teach prisoners to be calm and patient.

Vocational training is available for all prisoners


Distance courses are available


A tutor is assigned to each inmate to prepare for their release, which is a prerequisite. The quality of these reintegration programmes is questioned, as their educational impact seems to be negligible.

Prisoners have access to a television

yes, if purchased

Rules regarding access to a television vary from one establishment to the next. Some allow access every day; others, only during set 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

Some establishments have computers which allow access to authorised websites.

The press is not censured. Individual issues of newspapers can be bought at the canteen, or inmates can subscribe. Local papers are sometimes distributed for free in some establishments.

The most-represented religion in prison 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 days and hours of access to worship spaces.

There are chaplains in the prisons

varies by religion

The religions with the largest numbers of practising members benefit from the presence of chaplains. The visits are must be organised by the chaplains.

The prison service remunerates the chaplains


Religious activities are organised without expectation of payment.

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


Opportunities for organisations to act in the prisons are provided for by the law, but they are limited.

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

the prison governor

The most common sectors are: support after release, educational and psychosocial activities, and religious assistance.

Volunteer organisations do not receive public financing.

Prisoners are allowed to make use of financial resources


Financial resources are accessible

in an account

The circulation of cash is prohibited in prison. Article 113 of the Penal Enforcement Code states that prisoners must deposit their money in an account in their name. At the request of the accountholder, some funds may be transferred to an outside person. The money that he has available allows him to make purchases.

The remaining balance is returned to the prisoner upon his release. He can also use this money during a furlough or parole.

Destitute prisoners receive financial or in-kind support


According to Article 114 of the Penal Execution Code, prisoners without jobs or financial resources may receive an allowance.

Organisations, mostly religious ones, provide clothing or food to impoverished inmates.

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


In shared cells, one inmate is designated to inform the prison administration staff of the needs of the other inmates and the state of the facilities.

Prisoners have the right of association


Inmates are not allowed to create associations.

Prisoners have the right to vote


Prisoners are allowed to exercise their right to vote, if they so choose. Voting booths are installed in the prisons. Only the individuals imprisoned for serious offences can be deprived of this civic right.

Only the administration is allowed to express an opinion on the detention conditions in the media.
In the prisons of Bydgoszcz, Lublin and Warsaw-Mokotów, an internal radio system broadcasts music and a programme produced by inmates.