The authoresses analyze the non-custodial sentences known in Poland as curtailment of liberty, being one of the guiding principles of the 1969 Criminal Code and consequently an important instrument of penal policy in the years 1970 -1998. However, the normative effect of this code's provision proved to be relatively narrow (option available only under 17.5% of the defined offenses). Nevertheless, the statistical data show that in the first decade following the 1969 Criminal Code's entry into force curtailment of liberty fulfilled the purpose envisaged by the lawmakers, that is as an alternative to short terms of imprisonment. If a salient characteristic of the 1970s was stability of legislative policy, the 1980s, or more precisely the period from 12 December 1981 to 1989, saw the emergence of a tendency in the opposite direction i. e. towards severer definition of criminal responsibility. This was reflected in a decrease in the proportion of non-custodial sentences in the structure of judgments and a concurrent increase in the frequency with which courts sentenced offenders to imprisonment. At the same time, in the period from 1985 to 1988 there was a systematic rise in proportion of curtailment of liberty in the structure of sentences. The 1988 amendments to the Criminal Code, aimed at relaxing definitions of criminal responsibility, included, albeit in only a limited degree, provisions relating to the applicability of curtailment of liberty. The period of political, economic and social change in Poland which began in 1989 stimulated criminal law reform. The aim of the numerous legislative changes was to reduce the punitive character of the Criminal Code. One reflection of this was greater provision for non-custodial treatment of offenders, introduced by the new Criminal Code enacted in 1995. In 1991-1995 the share of curtailment of liberty in the structure of sentences held steady at a level of 3.5%-3.9%, making it the lowest ever for the period in which the 1969 Criminal Code was in force. Analysis indicates that curtailment of liberty did not fulfill the expectations associated with this form of punishment. It did not become a significant instrument of penal policy nor did it contribute to reducing the scale of sentencing to terms of imprisonment. The new Criminal Code has substantially expanded the possibilities of sentencing offenders to curtailment of liberty At the same time it has introduced modifications in the legal shape of this punishment which have met with criticisms.
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