Updated on: 29 June 2020
The Ministry of Justice and the Prison Service, in cooperation with the health inspectorates, have taken a number of measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus in prisons. Since 12 March, the temperature has been measured by all entering the units. Since 19 March, there has been a total restriction on visits to all prisons and detention centres. The work of prisoners outside the units has been restricted. As part of the action of the Ministry of Justice Assisting, prisoners were engaged in the production of masks (1,2 mln monthly), protective clothing (50 thousnads sets ) and disinfectants (120 000 lt monthly).
Inmates who were in the countries where the coronavirus is present, prior to their imprisonment, were subjected to preventive observation under isolation conditions.
The Penitentiary Service has kept prisoner transports and movements within the units to a minimum.
As of May 18, 2020, there are 4 inmates in Polish prisons and detention centres, who were not infected with coronavirus in prison, but with diagnosed disease were admitted from freedom. All these people are kept in a special isolation room under constant medical care.
As of May 17, 2020, there are 12 people who were diagnosed with coronavirus among prison officers and staff. According to the current regulations, the tests are ordered by the appropriate sanitary services as part of such a need. The Prison Service has not recorded any deaths of an officer or staff member or any prisoner with a COVID-19 diagnosis.
Visits to all detention centres and prisons have been suspended since March 19. Since March 12, the temperature has been measured for all those entering prisons – people who have a fever are not allowed in. At the same time, the possibilities of telephone, correspondence and instant messaging have been increased in order to ensure contact with detainees’ relatives. The prisoners also have greater access to television, radio and the press. Additional therapeutic, educational and cultural-educational activities have been introduced, individually and in small groups.
The alternatives for suspended visits are: more frequent phone conversations and watching TV.
Group activities and services have been suspended. Prison schools are not in operation, prisoners are being educated for residential purposes.
From 1 July 2020, it is planned to restore the possibility of performing work in prisons and production halls in the area or in the immediate vicinity of penitentiary units and to implement professional training for small groups of convicts. Then, in agreement with the employers, external employment will be reinstated, while maintaining the sanitary regime. The last stage will be the restoration of visits to inmates with their relatives. Dates for lifting further restrictions will be given in the near future.
The officials on duty in direct contact with prisoners are equipped with personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, visors).
As of 6 April 2020 officers who come into contact with prisoners shall wear protective masks.
All prisons and detention centres have been provided with an adequate supply of virucidal disinfectants, hygiene and medical supplies, including protective masks, overalls and gloves. Disinfection is done several times a day in rooms, for example entrances, handles, doors, telephones.
As of 6 April 2020 there is a total ban on prisoners going outside to work.
In connection with the coronavirus pandemic, the Parlament has adopted extraordinary laws, including those aimed at preventing the creation and spread of epidemics in prisons. The law provides for the possibility of the penitentiary court to grant a break in the serving of imprisonment. The provision applies only in exceptional situations when it is necessary to reduce the risk of an epidemic in prison. Only the governor of the prison, with the approval of the Central Board of the Prison Service, may ask for a break in prison. It may not apply to persons that are convicted of an intentional offence that carries a heavier sentence than 3 years in prison, or if convicted of an offence committed as part of a repeat offence, organised crime or an offence that is a regular source of income. The time limit for the exceptional interruption of sentences shall be limited to the end of the state of emergency or epidemic declared due to coronavirus.
For any further questions regarding the procedures in the state of emergency taken by the Central Board of Prison Service of Poland please contact the following:
Aleksandra Rogowska (International relations specialist)
Central Board of Prison Service
Supported by the Justice Programme of the European Union