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New CPT report on Poland

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The Committee visited the Białystok Remand Prison and Prison No. 1 in Grudziądz and focused on the situation of remand prisoners. It also visited the National Centre for the Prevention of Dissocial Behaviour, in which “persons representing a threat” are detained for an unlimited period of time.

The CPT regretted that no progress had been made during its previous visit (2017) and that, at the time of the visit, there had been a lack of cooperation on the part of the Government, leading it to consider making use of the public statement procedure.  In a sign of possible improvement on this front, the new Government in place since autumn 2023 has agreed to the automatic publication of CPT reports in January 2024.


The CPT regretted that the Polish law establishing an official minimum standard of 3 m² of living space per prisoner (excluding sanitary facilities) has remained unchanged, in spite of its long-standing previous recommendations. The CPT reiterated that it recommends that the personal living space per prisoner in prisons should be 6 m² for a single-occupancy cell and 4 m² per prisoner for a multiple-occupancy cell (excluding sanitary facilities) and recommended that the Polish authorities review the official capacity accordingly. Such a measure would have a direct impact on the prison density rate, which stood at 93.49% as of April 2023 (see the Government’s response, p. 29).


The CPT regretted that the regime for remand prisoners “has remained extremely impoverished despite [its] repeated recommendations on the subject” (§ 54), including following its previous visit. Remand prisoners currently remain “locked up in their cells for up to 23 hours per day” (idem).

Health care

The CPT noted also a lack of progress as regards medical screening of newly arrived prisoners, which remained “cursory and superficial, usually limited to a few general questions about the state of health and in most cases not including a full physical examination” (§ 56). Screenings were also carried out with some delays due to staff shortages.

The Committee also noted medical confidentiality issues as requests for medical consultation continued to be filtered by custodial staff, and custodial staff were at times present during consultations. Furthermore, in the absence of interpretation arrangements, “doctors and nurses had recourse to fellow inmates to assist with interpretation during medical consultations with patients who did not speak Polish” (§ 58).

Lastly, the CPT regretted that the recording of injuries remained poor as “neither of the prisons visited kept a specific register to record injuries (information was entered in prisoners’ medical files only), the descriptions were superficial and did not contain conclusions by a doctor as to the possible origin of injury or the consistency of the injuries with the statements made by a prisoner” (§ 57). Furthermore, information on injuries having occurred in prison were not systematically communicated to the competent prosecutor, while, according to the CPT, this should be the case “irrespective of the wishes of the prisoner concerned” (idem).

Contact with the outside world

The CPT regretted that newly arrived remand prisoners were still “routinely subjected to restrictions on visits and telephone calls” (§ 60) during a period of one to three months. Furthermore, remand prisoners were still required to request authorisation form a prosecutor or a judge for every single visit, and it can take up to two weeks for a response to their request. The CPT reiterated that it recommends that “remand prisoners be entitled to receive visits (and make telephone calls) as a matter of principle, rather than these being subject to authorisation by a judicial authority” (idem).

The CPT noted with concern that this restriction applied as well to remand prisoners’ contact with their lawyers.

The Committee also recommended to increase the visit entitlement for remand prisoners. In the facilities visited, remand prisoners could only receive one visitor a month for up to an hour (compared to two to three visits for sentenced prisoners). According to the CPT, all inmates should benefit from the equivalent of at least one hour of visiting time per week (§ 62).

The CPT visited the National Centre located in Gostynin, as well as its local branch located in Czersk, set up on a temporary basis pending the construction of new places in Gostynin.

Both establishments are under the responsibility of the Ministry of Health and are designed for “persons representing a threat” (within the meaning of the Act on Procedure vis-à-vis Persons with Mental Disorders who represent a Danger to Life, Health or Sexual Freedom of Other Persons), i.e. people suffering from a mental disorder and considered likely to commit an offence punishable by at least 10 years’ imprisonment, after they have served their prison sentence. Their detention in these centres is reviewed every six months and can be unlimited.

Detention in these centres is the subject of several complaints before the ECtHR (see i.a. the communicated case W. v. Poland, no. 43562/17, in which the applicant argues that his detention in the National Centre in Gostynin violated his rights under Articles 3, 5 § 1 (e), 5 § 4  and 8 § 1 ECHR).


The CPT noted that the Gostynin centre was overcrowded (accommodating over 90 individuals for 60 places, i.e. an overcrowding rate of 156%), and that no progress had been made in the construction of a new accommodation building. The Committee underlined that “ creating additional capacity alone will not offer a solution” (§ 64), and recommended rather reflecting on the purpose of such centres and altering their purpose “from one based on security to one based on rehabilitation” (§ 86).


The Committee criticised the “very high level of security which did not appear individualised and adapted to the level of risk posed by a particular patient” (§ 69), illustrated by the monitoring of consultation and treatment interventions by security staff, handcuffing during outside medical consultations, and “the CCTV coverage of absolutely every area where patients lived, including the toilets and showers” (idem).

The CPT also recommended to put an end to the “intimidating and unjustified practice” (§ 70) consisting in the high presence of security guards carrying “special means (truncheons, handcuffs and pepper spray) at all times, including inside the accommodation areas and in full view of patients” (idem).

Lastly, the Committee recommended allowing unrestricted access to outdoor exercise during the day (currently limited to 2.5 hours per day), and expressed concerns about the practice, deemed disproportionate, of applying a “total and unlimited ban on access to a telephone” to patients found to be using a telephone for unlawful purposes (§ 84).