Contributor(s)Avocats sans frontières / independent experts

Living conditions

Prisoners are accommodated in single cells


The prisoners are housed in ‘dormitories’, with a surface of 50 to 200 m2. These are equipped with bunk bed on two (or even three) levels, one to six water outlets and toilets. The number of prisoners per dormitory varies greatly from one facility to another.
Mornaguia prison, the most modern and best-equipped facility in the country, is divided into sections. These sections are composed of three dormitories and a concrete walkway with a wire roof. Each dormitory has about 60 bunk beds lined up on either side, less than a metre apart. Each dormitory accommodates between 80 and 120 people. They can be occupied at two, three or more times their capacity.

Prisoners sleep on

  • a bunk bed
  • a mattress on the floor
  • the floor

The dormitories are systematically over-occupied compared to their initially planned capacity. Not all prisoners have a bed. Some share the same bed and others sleep on the floor.

All the prisoners are provided with bedding


The facility provides two blankets per prisoner.

The lighting and ventilation of the accommodation are deemed insufficient. “Grilled windows, located at the top of the walls of the dormitories, allow natural ventilation, but do not ensure a sufficient renewal of air”.1

  1. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien”, November 2019, p. 133. 

The cells/dormitories are provided with electric lighting


The lights are turned off at midnight.

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


The facilities are neither heated nor air-conditioned. Dormitories are equipped with ceiling fans and sometimes air extractors. “These appliances are notoriously insufficient when the summer heat is at its peak”.1

  1. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien”, November 2019, p. 133. 

Prisoners can smoke

  • in their cell or dormitory
  • in shared spaces

Tobacco consumption is not taken into account at the time of cell assignment.

Dormitories are not equipped with furniture to enable prisoners to secure their personal belongings. They may be searched at any time.

Prisoners have access to water

  • in their cell or ordormitory
  • outside of their cell or dormitory

All dormitories have between three and six sinks.1

  1. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Guide du prisonnier en Tunisie”, November 2019, p. 58. 

Each prisoner is entitled to one shower per week. Persons who work, are receiving vocational training or have medical clearance may have more frequent access to showers.
There are not enough showers. Prisoners report washing with cold water, regardless of the time of year, using a cup and basin. Some women report having access to a supervised hot shower once a week. The rest of the time they wash with cold water.

Types of sanitary facilities


Sanitary facilities are clean, adequate and accessible


The sanitary facilities (toilets, washbasins) are located at the back of the dorms. The toilets are separated by aluminium doors. The number of sanitary facilities is largely insufficient. They are dysfunctional due to overcrowding.

The prison service provides personal hygiene products free of charge


The prison service distributes soap and shampoo to arriving prisoners. The soap is then replaced every 15 days. During their incarceration, destitute prisoners receive shampoo, toothpaste and a toothbrush. Other prisoners are required to keep these items in a canteen.[^guide2]

  • On 12 March 2020, the prison administration announced they had implemented improved hygiene measures in prisons to prevent the spread of coronavirus. It has made provision for disinfection procedures, thermal imaging cameras and creating isolation cells.

    / Kapitalis

The prison service provides cleaning products free of charge


The cleaning products for the dormitories are entrusted to the ‘cabrane’, the dormitory head. Cleaning products can also be stored in the commissary.

Beddings are refreshed


It is the prisoner’s responsibility to look after their bedding.

The prison administration does not provide uniforms. Prisoners wear their own clothes, brought by relatives.
On an experimental basis, the DGPR has implemented different clothing for convicted prisoners in certain facilities. It is considering making this widespread.1 Certain clothing items are prohibited, such as hats, military boots with laces or metal tips, shorts, jewellery, belts, and cotton jackets.
Prisoners are required to wear plimsolls regardless of the time of year.

  1. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien”, November 2019, p. 139. 

Prisoners must wash their clothes (Law of 14 May 2001, Article 20.6). They do their washing in the exercise yard. The clothes dry there or on the windows. The clothes can be entrusted to relatives for washing.

It is the prisoners’ responsibility to clean the dormitory. The dormitory head is responsible for the distribution of tasks among occupants. The maintenance of the common areas is carried out by prisoners assigned to work in the facility or those punished with chores.

The buildings are dilapidated and unsanitary. Constant humidity causes mould to grow on the walls.
Pests and parasites are often present. In some facilities, the prison administration provides anti-scab soap in the showers to limit its spread.

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


Drinking water in the dormitories is often unavailable due to water cuts. Prison staff then turn to tanks, and prisoners can buy bottled mineral water from the commissary.1

  1. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien”, November 2019, p. 136. 

Number of meals per day


Meals are served at various times in a large cauldron. All prisoners receive one baguette a day.

Food services are managed by

  • the prison service
  • relatives

Meals are prepared by inmate helpers. A prison officer supervises the work. Relatives greatly contribute to feeding prisoners.

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


The Prison Health Service approves the weekly menu and must oversee the nutritional quality of the meals.
In practice, the quality and quantity of the food provided is deemed inadequate. Meals are usually made up of bread and vegetable sauce.

Prisoners eat their meals in

their cell or dormitory

The administration provides neither a table nor cutlery. Only plastic cutlery is allowed. Prisoners usually eat their meals by hand.

Prisoners can buy food products


It is possible to buy food products from the commissary. Prisoners place orders with the dormitory head and pay for their purchases with vouchers (‘bons’), the prison’s own currency.
Withdrawed access to canteen products may be the result of disciplinary action.

Prisoners can have access to a refrigerator


As an exception, refrigerators may be available in the units to store meals brought by relatives. No equipment is provided for reheating food.

Prisoners are allowed to receive food parcels


Food is mainly based on the couffins, which are meal baskets brought by families. Families can bring up to three baskets per week.
The couffin is a central feature of prison life. It is a means of bartering and exchanging services between prisoners. The guards view it as a way to maintain social harmony. Inmates who do not have the support of their relatives suffer from their lack of couffin.