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

Contact with the outside world

Visits lasting 40 minutes through a glass window are allowed once a week (or twice for 20 minutes). Three hour face-to-face meetings (called vis-à-vis in Spanish) are organized once a month and six-hour family visits (for couples or with children younger than ten years of age) are organized once every three months.

Emotional ties tend to deteriorate either because the family or the prisoner does not wish to maintain contact, or because the loved ones do not have the means to make regular trips to the prison.

Conjugal visits take place once a month. It is necessary to prove that there is a stable relationship. The visitor cannot have a criminal record. In practice, conjugal visits take place during vis-à-vis meetings.

Permission to leave the prison, with the appropriate security measures, are granted in exceptional circumstances such as the birth of a child, sickness or the death of a loved one.

The identity of every visitor to a radicalized inmate is strictly monitored so as to detect any radicalized organizations on the outside.

Two phone calls per week are normally allowed (although the law permits five). Sending and receiving letters is unlimited.

The company Telefonica is the main telephone card provider, and sells them at a higher price outside of the prison.

Prisoners with an IR file (Radicalized Inmates) must provide a list of the numbers that they wish to call beforehand, so the penal administration can check the identity of these persons.

Telephone calls made by inmates under the FIES regime are probably listened to.

During the second semester of 2015, 17,070 persons served a sentence which did not include the deprivation of their liberty. The organization responsible for monitoring these persons is the sub-secretariat general of sentences and alternative measures.

In order to replace a penalty of deprivation of liberty (art. 88.1 of the Penal Code), the sentence must be less than a year in prison. Alternative penalties are: community service, fines or electronic tagging. Foreigners may choose to be deported instead of serving a sentence.

The sentence application system does not take into account the prisoner’s needs nor the objective of the given sentence which finishes at the end of the period stipulated and not when the person is considered to be rehabilitated.

To be admitted to a rehabilitation centre, the prisoner must be classed as a third-degree inmate (Cf Prison population). An open system is implemented in these centres, because the person must be present for at least eight hours every day. There are 13 independent rehabilitation centres, located outside a prison, and 19 rehabilitation centres, located inside a prison. In December 2015, the SGIP counted 8,131 people in this category (7,163 men and 968 women).

The Legal Advice Service offers free legal assistance during the case. The 83 Bar Associations in Spain propose defence services. People who earn more than 12,780€ cannot benefit from this assistance.

Communication between the inmates and the lawyers is confidential. They are not confidential for inmates under the FIES system (prisoners under special surveillance) or for prisoners with an IR file.

There are 50 Prison Supervision Courts and a Central Prison Inspection Court. First, prisoners must send their complaints or their requests to the Director of the penitentiary institution. If after three months, they have not received a response, or if the response is negative, they can write to the penal surveillance judge. The fact that these communications must first be transmitted to the Director of the prison discourages prisoners to report ill-treatment, out of fear of retaliation. Where there are no rules of procedure, only some judges accept direct complaints.

In different provinces, Bar Associations offer legal assistance to prisoners thanks to the Legal and Penitentiary Advice Service (SOAJP - Servicios de Asistencia y Orientacion Juridico-Penitenciaria). SOAJP counsellors represent prisoners who wish to appeal a decision made by the penal supervision judge. These counsellors are highly requested and are not available in every province. The Ombudsman’s Office is also able to receive complaints and to defend the prisoners’ rights.

The Andalusian Association for Human Rights (APDH) held a three-year campaign demanding that the SOAJP in Andalusia, which was closed because of a budget reduction, be reopened. Thanks to a three-year agreement, signed in February, the service was restored.

In 2006, Spain ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The Spanish NPM, created in 2009, is represented by the Ombudsman’s Office. The Autonomous Community of Catalonia has its own Ombudsman’s Office, called Sindic de Greuges.

These two institutions are theoretically independent. They visit the penitentiary institutions periodically and can make recommendations to the public powers.

The SGIP allows international organizations to check the prisons. The Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) of the European Council visits every two years.