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Amendments to the Penal Execution Code approved by Senate committees

On Wednesday, 7 September 2011, the Senate’s Human Rights, the Rule of Law and Petitions Committee and the Legislative Committee of the Polish Senate held a joint meeting. The agenda of the meeting included the amendment to the Penal Execution Code.  The draft law proposes major changes to the current wording of the Code. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights presented its position on the issue of legislative changes.

Voicing its concerns about the proposals altering the provisions governing the appellate procedure in penal execution proceedings. Also, the HFHR objects to the proposed modification of the current legal requirements for appeals against court decisions in penal execution proceedings. According to the Foundation, applying the above changes may result in a weaker protection of the rights of inmates.

The HFHR also expressed its concerns about the change of the catalogue of prerequisites for a prison leave, namely the deletion of the provision enabling inmates to argue health reasons in the leave application. The Helsinki Foundation statement on the draft amendment notes that such a modification may lead to a situation where health conditions of inmates which cannot be properly treated by prison health care will not be treated by courts as ‘important personal and family reasons’, the general limb of the new, limited set of prerequisites for a prison leave.

It must also be noted that the amendments to the Penal Execution Code provide for, among other things, the abolishment of the mandatory defence requirement in penal execution proceedings for inmates who do not know the Polish language. Further, according to the proposed amendment, courts will not need to consider the proximity of inmate’s place of residence in deciding on the location of a correctional facility in which the inmate is to serve his or her sentence.

The draft was approved by the both Committees. During the meeting, representatives of the Senate Legislative Office proposed several amendments to the draft law, the majority of which were accepted by Senators. Concerns of the Helsinki Foundation were not considered in the legislative process and the HFHR representatives present at the Committee’s meeting were not given an opportunity to speak.

The Foundation statement was prepared as part of the programmes Monitoring of the legislative process in the area of justice system and Health care in Polish prisons.

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