Contributor(s)Avocats sans frontières / independent experts

Daily life

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


Refusal to take part in the daily walk is a disciplinary offence. Most prisoners are locked in their dormitory for the rest of the day. Access to the exercise yard (aria) is taken in turn, in the morning or in the afternoon.
The yard has taps and a basin for washing clothes. It is sometimes equipped with a basketball basket and a games table.1

  1. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Guide du prisonnier en Tunisie”, November 2019, p. 60. 

The prison service offers activities to prisoners

in some facilities

The Prisons Act allows access to number of activities:

  • A daily walk of at least one hour
  • The library
  • Studies
  • Cultural and sporting activities
  • Paid work (only for convicted prisoners)

In practice, the activities take place very infrequently. Reasons given include lack of financial resources, overcrowding and strict security procedures. Only a small number of prisoners have access to the activities. Many accounts mention the use of corruption in order to benefit from them.

  • On 12 December, prisoners at El Houareb exhibited their artwork as part of the prison service’s programme “a creative prisoner, a prisoner who loves art”.

    / Tunisie Numérique

There are designated places for physical activities and sports


The Mornaguia prison has many sports facilities (multi-disciplinary sports hall, small football pitches etc.). It is considered to be the best-equipped prison in the country. In practice, prisoners rarely have access to these facilities.
Between 2018 and 2019, the DGPR built sports fields in the Sfax, Mahdia and Borj Eroumi prisons. Six facilities are equipped with basketball courts, in collaboration with the Tunisian Basketball Federation.

Prison facilities have a library


Prisoners can take out loans every two weeks. Relatives can also bring books during visits.

Work is compulsory


Number and percentage of prisoners who work

2.6 %

The administration explains that the low number of jobs is due to the country’s unstable economy.

/ Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, "Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien", November 2019, p. 146.

All prisoners are allowed to work


People in pre-trial detention do not have access to work.

The few jobs offered are in the general service sector, agricultural work , carpentry and metal construction. The general service sector mainly consists of:

  • Maintenance of common areas
  • Meal preparation
  • Order processing at the prison store

Mornaguia prison is equipped with large workshops (carpentry, ironwork, printing, etc.) in which qualified prisoners can work. This activity is low paid and reserved for convicted prisoners with the administration’s approval.

There are three semi-open prisons: El Houareb, Mahdia and Oudhna. These prisons accommodate prisoners convicted of misdemeanours. They have agricultural skills. Some inmates who do not meet these criteria are placed there because of overcrowding in other facilities.

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


48 hours is the legal maximum duration of work per week.

Prisoners are paid for their work


Salary is paid on a daily basis, from 2.5 to 3.5 dinars (0.87 to 1.22 USD). A portion of the salary is withheld and returned to the prisoner upon release.

Salaries are

significantly below the national minimum wage

In practice, the low level of pay is compensated with “favours (such as access to a direct visit1) or even donations in kind (packet of cigarettes).”2

  1. Visit without separation device. See section [Visits]. 

  2. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien”, November 2019, p. 151. 

Their income is subject to social contributions


Health and safety standards applicable outside are respected in prison


Prisoners enrolled in educational training

3.87 %

Twenty-one prisoners have taken an academic examination in 2018-2019.

/ Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, "Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien", November 2019, p. 157.

Education is available for all prisoners


The Ministry of Justice promotes educational activities in prisons. Half of prisoners have a level of education less than or equal to primary school. Prisoners who wish to enrol in academic or vocational training must submit a written application to the prison management. They take the prisoner’s engagement and behaviour into account.

Prisoners are allowed to pass diplomas and entry examinations

/ Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, "Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien", November 2019, p. 153.

The DGPR counts 1085 inmates with a vocational training certificate in 2018.1

  1. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien”, November 2019, p. 153. 

Number and percentage of prisoners enrolled in vocational training

5.33 %

The DGPR counts 1085 inmates with a vocational training certificate in 2018.1

  1. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien”, November 2019, p. 153. 

Vocational training is provided


The administration offers training courses in the following areas: goldsmithery, patchwork, hairdressing, styling, sewing, electricity, carpentry, tapestry, painting, leatherwork, horticulture, baking, ironwork and farming.1

  1. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Guide du prisonnier en Tunisie”, November 2019, p. 63. 

Vocational training is available for all prisoners


Prisoners between 18 and 25 years of age have priority access to vocational training. These are available to both pre-trial prisoners and convicted people.
Prisoners submit a written request to the prison management. In practice, vocational training is accessible to a small number of prisoners.

Prisoners are allowed to keep themselves informed regularly on public affairs


Any prisoner can access written content (books, newspapers and magazines).1

  1. Law of 14 May 2001, Article 19. 

Prisoners have access to a television


The televisions are located above the entrance door to the dormitory. Only Tunisian channels selected by the administration and channels broadcasting documentary and sports programmes are permitted. The TV must be switched off at midnight by the dormitory head or their deputy.

Prisoners have access to a radio


Prisoners have access to the press


Newspapers can be bought from the commissary or brought in by relatives.

The prison service allows access to Internet


The administration may prohibit the broadcasting of certain programmes for safety reasons.1

  1. Ministry of Justice, INPT, CoE, “Manuel du droit pénitentiaire tunisien”, November 2019, p. 178. 

The religion most represented in detention is Islam, like in the rest of the Tunisian population.

Prisoners are free to practice their religion and follow their beliefs


Christian and Jewish prisoners can seek outside spiritual assistance.

Dedicated places of worship are available


The collective practice of worship is not permitted. There are no prayer rooms or chaplaincies in the prisons. Calls to prayer and the wearing of qamis1 are prohibited. Praying is permitted in the dormitory. Everyone is allowed to have a prayer mat. Religious books are available in the libraries.[^guide]

  1. ‘Qamis’ or ‘kamis’ is a long garment traditionally worn by Muslim men. 

There are chaplains in the prisons


Representatives of religious faiths (Muslim, Christian, Jewish etc.) can go to prison and hold meetings and conferences. No space is provided for this purpose.

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


External involvement has increased since 2011. This is coordinated for the purposes of monitoring prison conditions, supporting prison reform or assisting prisoners.

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

the prison governor

Numerous associations offer cultural activities (painting and theatre workshops etc.) and professional training. These activities are not widespread in all penitentiary facilities. There is no clear and standardised framework for cooperation with the DGPR.

The main organisations working in prisons are:

  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (since 2005): visits to prisoners and improvement of detention conditions
  • Penal Reform International (since 2014): improvement of detention conditions and reintegration programmes
  • The international organisations of the United Nations system (OHCHR, UNODC and UNICEF) carry out missions to monitor prison conditions and advise on prison reform.

See section on National Preventive Mechanism (MNP) and other external control bodies.

Prisoners are allowed to make use of financial resources


Financial resources are accessible

in the form of vouchers

Prisoners do not have cash. Their family can deposit money at the institution’s accountant’s office during visits. They can also send the money by ‘money order’. Prison currency, in the form of vouchers, allows prisoners to make purchases from the commissary. Most purchases are made collectively by dormitory, through the dormitory head.

Destitute prisoners receive financial or in-kind support


The Prisons Act provides assistance to destitute prisoners on release from prison.

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


Petitions and collective claims are prohibited.

Prisoners have the right of association


Prisoners have the right to vote

yes, convicted prisoners depending on the offence and/or sentence

A restriction of civil rights may be imposed on prisoners with sentences of more than five years (Article 5 of the Code Pénal). Statutory prohibition of rights is established for sentences exceeding ten years (Article 30). The administration does not provide for the installation of ballot boxes inside penitentiary facilities during elections. All prisoners are, effectively, deprived of their right to vote.[^manual]