Country Listing

Poland Table of Contents


Under Communism

In the communist era, the Polish penal system basically adapted the penal practices of the Soviet Union to suit local conditions. In both systems, cheap and disciplined prison labor played an important role in supporting the economy. Forced, uncompensated labor on private projects of prison officials was a source of particular resentment among inmates.

The civil upheavals of 1980 and 1981 expanded the political role of the penal system. Among the thousands of arrests made during that time, typical crimes were possession of underground leaflets, display of Solidarity symbols, organization of meetings and marches, and refusal to work in militarized enterprises. Solidarity activists generally were imprisoned in groups. The PZPR applied great pressure to civil and military judges trying such cases; under martial law, a military commissar monitored every court as well. Loyalty oaths were required of judges, and many who were deemed unreliable lost their positions.

When martial law ended in mid-1993, thousands of political prisoners who had been held without charges were conscripted into the army and sent to hard labor camps, where they were subject to military rather than civil law. In this period, military courts retained jurisdiction over all cases involving "public safety, order, or national security." The tougher sentences of the martial law period remained in force and the right to appeal remained void.

Data as of October 1992