Numerous amendments to the draft on prison conditions; regulations are back to work in committee

Parliamentary clubs on Thursday tabled numerous amendments to the government’s draft amendment to prison terms. The project aimed at improving the security conditions of prisons and expanding the use of the electronic surveillance system will start working again in the committee.

On Thursday, he heard in the Sejm the report of the Sejm Commission, which made numerous changes to the draft amendment to the Criminal Code. The amendments proposed by the committees include additional rights for the probation officer to change the way in which unpaid hours are settled for social purposes. The amendments also clarify the issues related to telephone contacts of detainees. The committee’s amendments also include the introduction of health monitoring for inmates who are fasting. The changes also provide for mandatory isolation in a situation where a detainee uses violence against Prison Service employees or other detainees.

In the parliamentary discussion, MP Piotr Sak (PiS) has positively assessed the proposed provisions and announced that his club will support the proposed changes. The politician also presented four amendments. The first concerns the method for calculating the cell area in prisons. The second is the harmonization of the definition of a flat-rate fee for the use of additional electronic equipment. The PiS changes are also intended – as Sak said – to resolve the issue of using the phone by temporarily detained individuals. The recent change also sanctions public calls to release private information about PS officials.

Tadeusz Zwiefka of KO said there are both good and bad solutions in the project. He pointed out that the opinions of experts, including the Ombudsman, had not been taken into account in preparing the draft. He announced that the KO club will file an application for the removal of, among other things, changes related to the restriction of the detainee’s contacts with the outside world. “We don’t know why prisons don’t provide a sheet of paper or a pen and a stamp to inmates who don’t have cash so they can keep in touch with the outside world” – Zwiefka said. The Commissioner has tabled amendments to this effect.

Left MP Anita Kucharska-Dziedzic also criticized some of the project’s assumptions, including limiting detainees’ ability to file complaints and changes to telephone contacts. “In this regard, we are also submitting an amendment in the hope that, according to the Minister of Justice, the modern prison system does not limit the right to defense and contact with defense lawyers,” said Kucharska-Dziedzic.

Krzysztof Paszyk of PSL-KP, in turn, said he was positive about the further progress of the project. However, he stated that many of the proposed provisions in the draft needed to be refined and amended.

The deputy head of MS, Michał Woś, responded to the accusations and doubts of the opposition deputies. He stressed that the premise of the reform is to treat prisoners fairly, not privileged. “And hence the changes in the field of health care. (..) Right now there is a pathology and a privilege that we want to limit” – he said.

Woś also assured that in the proposed settlement, the ministry does not restrict prisoners’ right to correspondence. If someone wants to write and can’t afford it, the administration can decide to grant him stamps, for example,” said the state secretary.

Referring to the allegations about the limitation of the possibility to file a complaint by detainees, he points out that the provisions make this procedure concrete. “This in no way limits the right of prisoners to avail themselves of constitutional protections. You can use the institution of a complaint to the Ombudsman. Here we do a complaint within (prison – PAP) really so that there are no dozens thousands of complaints (…) who use this institution, but do not abuse the right to prison management “- he said.

In connection with the proposed amendments, the draft was referred back to the special committee for changes to the codifications.

The draft amendment to the Criminal Code, prepared by the Ministry of Justice, was announced last fall as one of the pillars of a comprehensive reform of prisons and the issue of serving sentences, the so-called “modern prison”.

The proposed reform foresees, inter alia, abolishing the summons of the convicted person to appear in the pre-trial detention center and introducing the principle that the court issues a warrant for the arrest and detention of any person sentenced to prison without the convicted person summoned in advance to appear on the prescribed date. The amendments also extend and improve the use of electronic surveillance for minor offenders. The new regulations introduce the principle of providing health services to inmates in accordance with the rules that apply to all patients.

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