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Author(s)Esther Pascual - ICAM | Monica Aranda - OSPDH

The penitentiary system

In Spain, there are 68 penitentiary institutions, with seven in Madrid and 14 in Catalonia.

Untried prisoners and convicted prisoners are detained in the same establishments, within different quarters.

59,464 cells are available (47,601 in Spain and 11,863 in Catalonia), which represents 66,210 spaces, many of which can hold two people.

More than 2,700 cells are empty throughout the country, due to a lack of financial resources for hiring personnel. The Archidona Prison (Malaga), which received a 117-million-euro investment, was finished in 2013 and is equipped with 1,008 cells. Budgetary restrictions prevent them from hiring the 500 officers necessary for the prison to function. The General Secretariat for Penitentiary Institutions spends 3.7 million Euros per annum in surveillance.

The penitentiary complex in Loma Mendizabal (Ceuta) is in the same situation. The rehabilitation centre of Almeria and the Maternal Units in Alicante and Tenerife wait to be implemented. Other prisons have been partially opened; a total of 26 units are still not in function.

In November, 200 prisoners were transferred to the Mas d’Enric Prison (Catalonia) which had been closed for 4 years.

The security services around the perimeter of the prisons have gradually been privatized. The pilot project started in 2013, concerning 21 institutions, was expanded in October 2014, to include the remaining prisons. The budget allocated to this project is 48 million Euros. ACAIP criticizes this initiative vehemently as it regards it to be costly and futile, stating that a supervisor can also carry out the duties of a guard. The union denounced the connections between the Popular Party and the security companies1.

1:“Private security in prisons costs 48 million Euros” dans El Mundo, 20/02/2015 (only in Spanish)

The Spanish Penitentiary Administration is divided into various sub-secretariats which manage the technical and social aspects of the administration. In 2014, the sub-secretariat general of human resources had 24 452 employees.

According to ACAIP, the lack of staff is one of the biggest problems. Between 2011 and 2015, a total of 1 429 posts remained vacant. 85% of the institutions did not have enough supervisors, nurses, administrators and technicians. According to ACAIP, it would be necessary to hire 3 647 people to cover the immediate needs1.

In its report for 2015, ACAIP expressed its concerns over the increasing age of the prison staff: 79% of the staff were under 40 in 1995, while in 2015 those under 40 years only represent 21%, and 40.9% of staff are over 50 years. A large number of workers will soon retire. In addition, staff often take sick leave and must work in poor conditions. ACAIP considers the prison staff to be a particularly vulnerable group under terrorist threat. The centres are farther and farther away from urban areas, making the commute to and from work even longer for these workers.

The Spanish Penitentiary Health Association (SRSP in Spanish) states that the care given in these penitentiary institutions is basic, as 99% of doctors are general doctors.

Each institution has healthcare personnel which provides consultations, diagnoses illnesses and prescribes medications. One of these employees must be present every 24 hours to treat any emergencies.

1:“Interior has 2700 cells ‘brand new’ lack of staff despite the overcrowding of prisons”, 7 March 2016

Guards-inmates ratio

0.4