Detention issue

Time out of cell

FRA research findings

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Legal instruments & key provisions

Legal instrument Key provision
Imprisonment Act (Vankeuslaki/Fängelselag)Prisoners and those in police custody must be provided with the opportunity to spend at least an hour per day outdoors unless there is especially cogent reason against this based on a prisoner’s health condition or maintaining prison order or security. Activities in prisons may include work, studies on different levels, substance abuse work and leisurely activities.


Year Recommendation Report
2016The NPM noted concerning police detention that only a few prisons have facilities for activities outside the cells. As a rule, the outdoor exercise yards at police prisons are small. Some of them are so enclosed and secure that there is no view outside and, for instance, tobacco smoke remains in the space for a long time. It is questionable whether being in such areas can be called outdoor recreation at all. Renovations are not considered unexpected exceptional circumstances that would justify limiting the right of persons deprived of their liberty to outdoor exercise. Cells do not usually get natural light and do not often have TV and electrical sockets. Concerning prisons, the NPM noted that in certain prisons, many units have been designated as substance-free units. To be accommodated in these units, prisoners must agree to give a urine sample whenever requested. In practice, this commitment is a prerequisite for being allowed to participate in an activity or live in an open unit. The NPM emphasised that prisoners who do not wish to commit to a substance-free life should also have the opportunity to participate in activities or be placed in an open unit. Accommodation cells had no night lights or reading lights. There were not enough facilities for children’s visits or they were otherwise inappropriate for the purpose. The outdoor exercise area had no rain shelters or benches. The area was also too small considering the number of prisoners outside at the same time. A prison’s ability to take in prisoners with mobility impairments seemed very problematic even though the prison should have a cell for persons with disabilities. Report details
2018After the visit, the NPM asked the prison to provide a report on how many hours of activities the prisoners had attended in a certain week. The situation appeared to be quite good on weekdays, when the majority of prisoners spent more than eight hours per day out of their cells. In the weekends, however, the situation was clearly worse. In addition, the female prisoners’ extremely poor ability to function set limits on their placement in activities. The Deputy-Ombudsman noted that open units were difficult to achieve merely by increasing the amount of activities. The Deputy-Ombudsman did not see why cell doors could not be open also when there was no organised or supervised activity going on in the unit (4653/2018). Report details
2020The Ombudsman alerted the prison governing bodies to the fact that it is neither acceptable nor legal to keep prisoners inactive in their cells. The NPM report notes that this problem often comes from the lack of resources in prisons. Report details
2020The Deputy-Ombudsman decided to investigate on his own initiative the opportunities of foreign prisoners to follow TV programmes (757/2019*). In his decision of 16 January 2020, the Deputy-Ombudsman asked the Central Administration Unit of the Criminal Sanctions Agency to investigate how easy it is for foreign prisoners to access international TV programmes in different prisons. He also asked the Central Administration Unit to find suitable ways for prisons to subscribe to foreign TV channels as soon as possible. The Deputy-Ombudsman asked the Central Administration Unit to report the measures taken by prisons. He also noted that he will pay attention to the access of foreign prisoners to foreign-language TV programmes on his future visits. Report details