Abandoned Prison - Zabrze, Poland 2019

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Jul 25, 2017
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49421049601_788f60440a_b.jpg Areszt Śledczy w Zabrzu #03

You know, it is rather ironic actually. Normal people want to stay as far away as possible from places like this. And we, too, do not want to serve time in a jail. But as we were on our road trip to Poland, we got a tip from a local to explore this abandoned detention center in the middle of a big city. Moving freely in a prison is a contradiction in terms, but here we were doing exactly that. This undisclosed landmark allowed us to see how life behind the curtain is.

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In Poland, we traveled more than 1,000 km to see different kinds of locations. We filmed four power plants, three castles and some other undisclosed landmarks spread all over the country. As usual, we were trespassing most of the time. But we also did some explorations with permission. For that, we needed the help of a local urban explorer. He managed to get us into a dark place in the South of the country. He said that we would be one of the last people to capture insights of the site before it would be gone forever.

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This place is in Zabrze. It is a city near Katowice with a population of more than 170,000 people. This used to be an important area for the Polish industry. Especially when it comes to mining. However, abandoned industry might be a topic for our next trip to this region. Because on this day, we were interested in another kind of structure: Massive walls secured with barb wire fence in this prison that closed down less than two years ago. Before that, several hundred inmates were living here day in and day out.

49421046656_db37480380_b.jpg Areszt Śledczy w Zabrzu by Tobi_urbex #01

The history of the premises reaches back around 130 years. At that time, the Province of Silesia was part of Prussia. In 1888, the Germans built this site to detain male criminals from the surrounding area. The four-floor main building had the capacity to house 300 inmates in total. The penal institution also consisted of two administration buildings, seven yards, so the prisoners could get outside, and some guard towers.

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Though this looks like a cold and awfully tough place to be, there were no condemned criminals here. Over time, this site was turned from a prison to a detention center. This means, there were people here who were not yet declared convicts but were charged for something. The local court is actually the adjacent building which is still active by the way. People were waiting for their trial, sometimes for months, although they were completely innocent in some of the cases. They might be gone now but you can still find traces of former inmates today.

49421268882_d42955d88c_b.jpg Areszt Śledczy w Zabrzu by Tobi_urbex #04

Next to 300 solitary cells, there was a canteen, a chapel and several communal spaces stocked with TV sets and sports equipment. When this place was abandoned, all the furnishings were removed.

49420580943_4de201e1eb_b.jpg Areszt Śledczy w Zabrzu by Tobi_urbex #07

In March 2018, the facility closed down. The government passed a law, a modernization act so to say, and 14 prisons in the whole country were shut by the Department of Justice. This one needed to be closed because of its bad technical condition and renovation simply would have been too costly. The inmates were moved to nearby detention centers and the staff got new jobs in similar institutions. So, for almost two years, the former prison has been vacant now and only sometimes it is used as motive for photographers or filmmakers.

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The neighboring district court is interested in integrating this building complex to their campus. It is planned to turn the former detention center into an archive. Where once people were held in two-by-three meters cells, piles of case records will be stored in near future. Other rooms will be converted to offices. But at first, the substantial renovation is necessary. It is not yet clear how much of the old structure will be preserved then. These construction measures are supposed to start soon. So, as it seems we are really one of the last people who were able to see this site with their own eyes and capture its story. And it is one more location we can delete from our map now because it is not abandoned anymore, it has a new purpose.

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If you want to see more of the prison (e.g. the cells from the inside) check out our video report on YouTube:


The Wombat

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Mar 16, 2013
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wow, that is great. What a great place to see.
I stayed in a former prison in Canada once. Pleased to say it was by choice!


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Jun 7, 2014
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Yeah thats just stunning as always BWT nicely done!