Courts and prisons – efficient operations in the situation of the coronavirus threat
A large logistic operation connected with the introduction in the justice and prison systems of safety measured aimed at the protection against the spread of coronavirus is progressing smoothly – informed Zbigniew Ziobro, Minister of Justice and Prosecutor General, Anna Dalkowska and Michał Wójcik, Deputy Ministers, and Jacek Kitliński, Director General of the Prison Service.
As emphasised, in courts, correctional facilities and other institutions connected with the Ministry of Justice, necessary health safety and epidemiological protection procedures recommended by the Ministry of Justice, the Chief Sanitary Inspector and the President of Courts are being smoothly implemented.
– Compliance with these rules is a civil duty of each of us. Our additional obligation, as people responsible for the justice system, is to encourage everyone that is in one of the above mentioned places to follow safety rules. We must also guarantee that these rules are put into effect.
Michał Wójcik, the Deputy Minister, who is the representative of the Ministry in the Government Crisis Management Team responsible for the prison system, pointed out that special procedures concerning all people who are placed in penitentiary institutions were developed together with the Sanitary and Epidemiological Station (Sanepid) two weeks ago.
He also informed that prison industrial workshops and budgetary units subject to the Ministry will manufacture protective masks, and they may start the production of special overalls and disinfectants.
Wide-spread activities connected with the reorganisation of work of courts and the assurance of their safety were presented by Anna Dalkowska, the Deputy Minister responsible for the supervision over the judiciary.
– This operation could not succeed without the cooperation and compliance of positions of all Presidents of Appeal Courts – she stressed out.
The activities undertaken were presented in detail at the conference.
Pursuant to the agreed recommendations, as of today (13 March) until 31 March 2020, in all courts in Poland court hearings are limited only to the most urgent cases.
A wide information campaign was carried out. Due to it, parties to court proceedings and self-governments of legal professions learnt about the manner of the functioning of courts in the nearest future.
The list of urgent cases which cannot be postponed to later dates, submitted by the Ministry of Justice to the Presidents of Appeal and District Courts, was disseminated. They are cases recommended to be heard under an urgent procedure. They were excluded from orders concerning cancellation of hearings and sessions with the parties’ participation. They include, for example, cases concerning temporary arrest, family and custody cases, counteracting domestic violence and execution of the European Arrest Warrants.
Pursuant to the recommendation of the Ministry of Justice, presidents of courts launched special mechanisms of protection against coronavirus infection. Procedures of increased hygiene and limitation of contacts with people who return from regions affected by coronavirus are applied. Hearings of witnesses are carried out by video and telework is applied. In court buildings, disinfectants are available and the temperature of people entering these buildings are taken. The operation of Customer Service Offices and files reading rooms was limited or suspended.
Procedures connected with counteracting the epidemics have been efficiently implemented for two weeks and they are adjusted on an ongoing basis to the recommendations of the Chief Sanitary Inspector.
41 prisoners who were tested negative for coronavirus, but stayed abroad in regions affected by the epidemics are isolated. For the same reasons, 17 officers of the Prison Service are undergoing home quarantine.
Since 12 March, in all detention and correctional facilities, the temperature of all people entering their premises has been taken for preventive purposes. Also people visiting prisoners are subject to the control. In the case of detecting the body temperature exceeding 38 degrees Celsius, the person is not allowed to enter the unit premises.
At any time, depending on recommendations of sanitation authorities, restrictions or complete ban on visits may be introduced in correctional facilities. It is also possible in the situation of the risk of epidemics to suspend passes and permits to leave the correctional facility, including permits for going to work outside.
The Prison Service asks people who want to visit their family members or friends in correctional and detention facilities to stay at home if they have symptoms of upper respiratory infections (fever, cough, runny nose or shortness of breath).
The situation in prisons in other countries affected by coronavirus is being monitored. In some countries, prisons are completely closed to people from outside.
Probation officers and specialists
The reorganisation of work also covered probation officers and Consultative Teams of Court Specialists. Pursuant to the guidelines, the orders for community interviews by probation officers are limited to the minimum extent necessary. It also applies to the possibility to suspend official duties if the person under the supervision of the probation officer has become ill or is undergoing quarantine or a disease has been detected at the place of their residence.
Until 27 March, examinations carried out by Consultative Teams of Court Specialists are cancelled. Teams composed of school counsellors, psychologists and specialist doctors mainly prepare opinions on family and guardianship as well as minors cases. Recommendations for the suspensions of examinations result from care for health and safety of employees of Consultative Teams of Court Specialists and people referred by courts for examinations, including children.
Since 13 March until further notice, services for clients have been suspended in the Information Office of the National Criminal Register, National Information Centre of Register of Pledges, National Court Register and Land and Mortgage Register. The decision was taken out of concern for all citizens’ health security. Information issued by the Information Office and National Information Centre may be obtained by e-mail or post.
Thanks for professionalism and cooperation
The efficient reorganisation of work of the justice system has been confirmed during today’s video conference of court presidents and heads with the representatives of the Ministry of Justice. It was agreed that such conferences would be organised every day from Monday to Friday, until further notice.
The Ministry of Justice wants to thank all Presidents and Heads as well as all employees of common courts in Poland for their responsibility, professionalism and cooperation over the past days. Activities have been undertaken for the benefit of employees, people who receive services provided by the justice system and all citizens.
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Ministry of Justice