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The right to receive a food parcel by persons deprived of liberty SK 10/16

A request for a food parcel for a convicted person may be submitted – apart from the convicted person – only by a close person.

On 19 December 2017 at 12.30 p.m., the Constitutional Tribunal publicly delivered a judgment concerning Article 113a (3) of the Act of 6 June 1997 – the Executive Penal Code.

The Constitutional Tribunal adjudicated that Article 113a (3) of the Act of 6 June 1997 – the Executive Penal Code, insofar as it provides that a request for a food parcel for a convicted person may be submitted, apart from the convicted person, only by a close person, is consistent with Article 32 in conjunction with Article 41(4) of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland.

Moreover, the Constitutional Tribunal decided to discontinue the proceedings as to the remainder.

The ruling was unanimous.

The complainant’s allegation concerned differentiation with regard to the humane enforcement of a sentence in such a way that some convicts were deprived of the right to obtain additional monthly provisions solely due to the fact that they did not have any close persons.

The Tribunal deemed that a relevant characteristic that determined the singling out of a group of similar individuals was, in the present case, the deprivation of liberty. With regard to the entire group of similar individuals, i.e. for all persons deprived of liberty, the legislator had introduced the right to an additional food parcel.

In the Tribunal’s opinion, the fact of having or not having close persons does not differentiate the legal situation of persons deprived of liberty as regards their possibility of receiving a food parcel referred to in Article 113a(3) of the Executive Penal Code. A convicted person still has the right to receive a food parcel once a month, regardless of the fact whether s/he has a close person who is not deprived of liberty.

In the Tribunal’s opinion, the differentiation in the situation of convicts has a factual character, and not a legal one. The lack of an additional food parcel may thus arise from the particular situation of an individual convict, but it does not follow from the lack of the legal possibility of receiving a parcel. Such a right granted by the legislator is enjoyed by all persons deprived of liberty.

The arguments of the Ombudsman, who participated in the proceedings, also referred to convicts’ possibility of maintaining relations with freely-chosen persons. In the Tribunal’s view, it is possible in the current legal situation to maintain relations with close persons by covering the costs of food parcels. In a situation where all parcels are put together by prison staff on the basis of a list, the personal involvement of close persons in the preparation of such parcels have diminished.

Consequently, the lack of the possibility of making a request for a food parcel by a different person than a close person within the meaning of Article 115(11) of the Executive Penal Code may be balanced out by transferring money to a convicted person to cover the costs of the preparation of a parcel. The said solution falls within the limits of the legislator’s discretion and does not contradict the constitutional values and principles.

The Presiding Judge of the adjudicating bench was the President of the Constitutional Tribunal, Judge Julia Przyłębska, and the Judge Rapporteur was Judge Henryk Cioch.