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Poland Postcommunist Reform
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
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    Beginning in 1989, former opposition groups (who during the 1980s had become quite familiar with the Polish prison system) achieved a government ban on violence in prisons and restoration of prisoner civil rights. In 1989 Parliament passed an amnesty law that released political prisoners but continued to confine recidivists. In late 1989, the disappointed hard-core prison population staged some 500 riots. In 1990 Pawel Moczydlowski, director of the Central Prison Administration, succeeded in ending the violence and corruption typical of the communist administration. About one-third of prison guards and threequarters of prison governors were dismissed between 1990 and 1992. By mid-1992, nearly 50 percent of prison personnel had been in service less than three years.

    Wherever possible, the physical structure of prisons was opened to give inmates greater contact; harassment and arbitrary punishment were eliminated, and visitation and appeal rights were extended. Patronat and Alcoholics Anonymous became active among prisoners, and clergymen had unlimited access. Increased public access eased tensions between inmates and guards. In 1992, however, a Helsinki Watch report noted poor material and sanitation conditions and overcrowding in many Polish prisons. Only fifteen prisons had their own hospitals, many of them with primitive facilities. The opportunity to work, an arduous but often welcome respite from prison tedium, was reduced significantly in the postcommunist economic decline; in mid-1992 only about 25 percent of prisoners held jobs, and only about 4 percent of prisoners worked for civilian companies.

    In mid-1992 the Central Prison Administration had debts of US$8.3 million. The decline of prison enterprises meant that prisons no longer contributed to the budget of the Ministry of Justice. Prison budgets were consumed by the cost of housing prisoners (3 million zloty monthly per prisoner). Most Polish prisons were at least 100 years old, and several facilities had been condemned by 1992. In 1992 the prison population was 61,329. Although significantly lower than in the communist era, that figure climbed by 1,000 to 1,500 per month between 1989 (when the post-amnesty population was 40,000) and 1992 (when experts declared that the system had reached its capacity). Sentences still averaged two years, compared with six to eight months in the West. In most cases, courts still tended to impose maximum sentences even for trivial crimes. Lesser punishments, such as fines and restricted freedom, were rarely imposed as alternatives to imprisonment.

    In the early 1990s, most aspects of internal security in Poland followed the same irregular pattern of reform as that which occurred in national security policy in the same years. By 1992 the mission of state security agencies had changed dramatically toward protection of all citizens rather than protection of the state, but the public retained from the communist era considerable suspicion of such agencies. The open society of the early 1990s fostered new types of crime, which were met with uncertain reform measures in police and border protection and in prison policy. Obtaining public support for internal security institutions was a difficult part of governance in the early postcommunist era, as all of Polish society adjusted to quite new internal and external conditions.

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    Background on Poland's military history is available in studies such as M.K. Dziewanowski's Poland in the Twentieth Century and Norman Davies's God's Playground: A History of Poland. A. Ross Johnson covers the development and organization of the Polish People's Army in East European Military Establishments: The Warsaw Pact Northern Tier; he covers the role of the military in government in Poland in Crisis. Several valuable recent studies of Polish military doctrine and the international security position of Poland have been published by the Soviet Studies Research Center of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and the Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The RFE/RL Research Institute's RFE/RL Research Report series published between 1989 and 1992 contains comprehensive reports on the Polish prison system, reform of internal security agencies, and Poland's postcommunist military doctrine and strategy. The annual volumes of The Military Balance, published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London), provide detailed information on force and armament strength. The Daily Report: East Europe, a publication of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, is an invaluable source of translations of up-to-date periodical articles on the Polish military and the political background of military policy. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

    Data as of October 1992

    NOTE: The information regarding Poland on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Poland Postcommunist Reform information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Poland Postcommunist Reform should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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Revised 10-Nov-04
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