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Prisons in Poland are still overpopulated

The Central Prison Service Authority reports that the average population of penal institutions and remand centres in Poland stands at 97.8 per cent of the institutions’ capacity. Yet, the detailed statistical data from mid-July 2011 indicate that in many places the occupancy level exceeds 100 per cent, reaching the alarming 129 per cent in some establishments.

These calculations have been based on a minimum standard of three square meters of cell space per inmate as set forth in the Penal Execution Code. ‘The Polish standard is one of the lowest in Europe and below the minimum recommended by the CPT’, says Maria Ejchart, an HFHR expert. Indeed, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) recommends a minimum of 4 square metres of floor space per prisoner in shared accommodation.

The National Preventive Mechanism also revealed that the officially declared general capacity of penal institutions is often increased by adding the areas of such facilities as sick bays, wards for mothers with children or solitary confinement cells. .

According to the CPT recommendations stated in a report from July 2011, the Polish authorities should spare no efforts to tackle the problem of overpopulation in correctional facilities. Yet, in an interview for the Rzeczpospolita daily of 12 July 2011 Justice Minister Krzysztof Kwiatkowski commented on the issue saying that ’the problem of prison overpopulation has been already eliminated in the previous year’.

The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights would like to express its deepest concern over this statement and has urged the Justice Minister to indicate the actions taken by the government to effectively solve the problem of overpopulation. ‘We are aware of how complex the introduction of a four square meter minimum is going to be. Yet, we believe that comprehensive measures must be taken to eliminate the overpopulation in Polish prisons’, says Mr Ejchart.

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