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

Specific population

In December 2015, the SGIP recorded 61 614 people deprived of liberty throughout the country, 52,804 in Spain and 8,810 in Catalonia. 56,891 of them are men (92.34%) and 4,722 are women (7.66%).

According to the Council of Europe’s Penal Statistics for 2015 (SPACE), the rate of incarceration in Spain is 137.8 and 117.3 in Catalonia. The rate in Spain is the ninth highest in the European Union, despite relatively low delinquency rates.

The occupancy rate in prisons in 2010 was the third highest in Europe. Since then, the number of incarcerated persons has decreased by 19%, from 76,079 detainees in 2009 to 61,614 in 2015. ACAIP reported a decrease of 3,406 detainees in 2015 (a decrease of 5.2%).

The Penal Code Reform in 2010 reduces the length of sentences applicable for certain crimes (the main reason why the incarcerated population had experienced such a great increase) and encourages the application of alternative sentences for crimes related to traffic safety.

According to SPACE, in 2014, the occupancy rate in prisons was at 84.5% for Spain and 82.8% for Catalonia. However, the incarcerated population is unequally spread throughout the country. Some centres, even some units within the same establishment, may still be overpopulated.

The detainees are placed in categories according to degree systems:

  • First degree corresponds to the “closed regime”, reserved for people considered to be potentially dangerous by the penitentiary administration. Untried prisoners may also be subject to this regime.

  • Second degree corresponds to the “ordinary system”, where persons may work, take classes and receive visits.

  • Third degree is the “semi-custodial regime” where personal circumstances (children, sickness), the seriousness of the crime and the prisoner’s behavior are taken into consideration. Up until 2015, people condemned to a sentence of five years had to have served at least half of the time before possibly being categorized as third degree inmates. The major reform of the Penal Code of July 2015 abolished this requirement. In practice, it still applies to the prisoners who have an IR file (Radicalized Inmates) (Cf Security and safety).

The Prison Treatment Board revises the classification of each prisoner every six months, or every three months for those who are in the first degree.

Pre-trial detainees

12.4 %

/ All of Spain - SGIP

The percentage of women prisoners in Spain (7.6%) is the highest in Europe (average of 5.3%). 50% of crimes are drug-related compared to 30% for men. 28% of women are foreigners.

Four prisons are exclusively for women in Spain (Alcala de Guadaira, in Sevilla, Brieva, in Avila, Alcala and Madrid 1) and one in Catalonia (Donas in Barcelona). The other female prisoners serve their sentences in exclusive units within men’s prisons.

When women reside in a region where the prison does not have any space left, they are transferred to other facilities far from their families.

Female prisoners have a more limited access than men to common spaces (library, sports rooms, parlours, theatres). They also have fewer opportunities to participate in recreational or cultural activities, production or occupational workshops and training.

A high percentage of women are categorized as first degree prisoners. Those who suffer from psychiatric disorders do not receive suitable treatment.

Complaints regularly denounce the difficulties accessing consultations with a specialist, as the Home Guard tends not to permit inmates to visit doctor’s offices on the day of their appointments. In institutions, other than those exclusively for women, the infirmary is reserved primarily to men and female inmates find it difficult to gain access. However, certain health needs specific to women are monitored: contraception, prenatal care and maternal education.

Female inmates complain about the irregular presence of gynaecologists at the infirmary. They deliver their babies in the hospitals which have an agreement with the penal administration.

Spain authorizes mothers to live in prison with their children until they reach the age of three years old. In 2014, two hundred children lived within the prison system. Mothers may be assigned to one of the eight specific units in a penitentiary institution. They must be classed as third-degree inmates, since they live in semi-custodial regime.

The “maternal units”, pioneering experiment in Europe in the 80s, are small apartments which depend on the penal administration but are not a part of the penitentiary institution. Inmates are placed in semi-custodial regime and cameras, alarms and detectors provide surveillance. Children are welcomed to join nurseries within the residence.

The Aranjuez prison composes of a family unit where the father and mother may live with their children under the age of three.

Female prisoners

7.6 %

The autonomous communities (and not the Ministry of Internal Affairs) are responsible for the management of the juvenile centres. There is no clear figure regarding the number of child detainees, as the majority of centres for minors are managed by private organizations. Catalonia is the only autonomous community which manages its juvenile centres for minors, but, according to the SPACE report 2014, it no longer publishes its figures.

The law on the penal responsibility of minors applies to children between the ages of 14 and 18 years. Those who have not reached this age are not criminally responsible. Detention measures only apply to crimes deemed serious in the Penal Code. The children’s judge may rule on cases involving youth between 18 and 21 years, if the investigating judge deems it necessary. Juveniles, who have been condemned as minors, are transferred to a prison when they reach the age of 23.

Applicable measures can go from a warning to a sentence of 1 to 5-years imprisonment for violent crimes.

Children condemned to measures restricting their liberty are placed in the centre for minors closest to their home so they can maintain their family ties.

There are three types of systems: closed, semi-open (minors live in a centre but they study or work outside) and open.

In its 2015 report, the Coordination for the Prevention and Denunciation of Torture (CPDT) raised the case of Q.M.R.F, who died March 13 in a fire which started in the En Pinares juvenile detention centre (Mallorca). According to four former supervisors, the fire control system hadn’t been working for ten years, there weren’t any smoke detectors and the windows were sealed. The Civil Guard and the local police, who arrived before the emergency services, were denied access[^1].

[^1]:“In Es Pinaret accidents occur daily. It is a time bomb” dans El Mundo, 24/10/2915 (in Spanish)

In December 2015, the SGIP recorded 24,144 foreign inmates compared to 19,697 in December 2014, that is an 8.9% increase. This year, foreigners represented 39.2% of the prison population.

The 2015 report from SGIP indicates that the most represented countries of origin are Morocco, Romania, Colombia, Ecuador, the Dominican Republic, Algeria, and the United Kingdom. 24.1% of foreign inmates are arrested for the trafficking and sale of drugs.

In 2014, among those who were sentenced to serving less than 6 years in prison, 456 preferred to be deported to their country rather than to serve their time. 213 were deported after serving three-quarters of their sentence.

The law permits an interpreter to assist a foreign inmate and to inform them of their rights. In practice, an interpreter is not always provided. There are no specific quarters reserved for foreign inmates.

Sanctions imposed for illegally staying on Spanish territory are administrative (fine or deportation).

Foreign prisoners

39.2 %

/ All of Spain - SGIP

According to SGIP, 1,386 inmates were over the age of 60 in 2014.

Article 92 of the Penal Code permits early release for those 70 years and over, once they are third degree inmates.

Many of these persons spend most of their time in the centre’s infirmary. Since 2012, ACAIP demanded a plan which takes into consideration these persons’ needs as well as the construction of adequate facilities[^retirement1] [^Instruction2].

[^retirement1]:“A retirement behing bars” dans El País, 12/2012 (only in Spanish).

[^Instruction2]:“Instruction 8/2011. Comprehensive care for the elderly in the penitentiary environment”, ACAIP (only in Spanish)

Many inmates suffer from diseases or mental illness. There are only two psychiatric prison institutions in Spain, in Sevilla and Alicante. These do not have enough space for all of the inmates who suffer from mental illness and should benefit from their care.

According to Human Rights Organizations, the penal administration neglects this category of persons, 25% of the prison population in Spain. Analysis of the official figures shows that an average of 46% of those admitted to penal institutions’ infirmaries are there because of psychiatric illness. Approximately 25,000 cases have been identified over the last three years. The central secretariat of penitentiary institutions does not know the exact number of inmates who suffer from mental illness, which detention centre they are being held or the number of persons who have been declared legally “irresponsible”.

Persons suffering from major physical handicaps can be categorized as third-degree inmates for humanitarian reasons.

In its 2015 report, the CPDT denounced the death of P.M. in the Sevilla II prison, after his conditional release for serious and incurable illness had been refused. He was diagnosed with a terminal laryngeal cancer.