Many individuals who have committed offences and suffer from mental health illness are held under the ordinary prison regime. Others are subjected to “security measures” and detained in forensic psychiatric hospitals or psychiatric inpatient units. These persons have different legal statuses, may be placed in several different settings, and receive various levels of care. What is the fate of mentally disordered offenders in Spain?

Prison Insider and the French National Union for Family and Friends of People Suffering Mental illness and/or Psychological Disability (Unafam) examined the experience of offenders with mental health problems in eight European countries. Here is an overview of the situation in Spain.

Persons released from prison may also be required to undergo treatment if they do not have any external support on release.


Detoxification center (Centro de deshabituación): establishments that accommodate people subjected to treatment orders for addiction. No specific establishment was created.

Forensic psychiatric hospital (Hospital Psiquiátrico Penitenciario): correctional facilities that accommodate people under treatment orders. There are two: in Seville and Alicante.

National Plan on Drugs: programme for the implementation and evaluation of public policies relating to drug addictions.

Security measures (Medidas de seguridad): measures applicable to persons that are not considered as criminally responsible or partially responsible for their acts. They differ based on the evaluation of their level of danger. Some measures are custodial, such as psychiatric hospitalisation, whilst others are not, such as prohibitions on exercising and the deprivation of certain rights (right to vote, to take exams).

SGIP (Secretaría General de Instituciones Penitenciarias - General Secretariat for Penitentiary Institutions): Department of the Ministry of the Interior in charge of correctional facilities (with the exception of Catalan prisons).

Spanish Ombudsman (Defensor del pueblo): Spanish National Preventive Mechanism. It is in charge of protecting the fundamental rights and public freedoms of citizens.

Supervisory judge (Juez de vigilencia penitenciaria): judge competent to review certain modalities of the execution of sentences and measures.

PAIEM (Programa de Atención Integral a Enfermos Mentales en centros penitenciarios - (programme for the comprehensive care of prisoners suffering from a mental disorder): programme for prisoners suffering from a severe mental disorder.

Programa Puente Extendido: psychosocial support programme for people sentenced to non-custodial measures who suffer from severe mental disorders (TMG).

UHPP (Unidad Hospitalaria Psiquiátrica Penitenciaria - Penitentiary psychiatric hospital unit which accommodates people under security measures. There is only one, in Catalonia.

UTE (Therapy and Education Unit): specific units within correctional facilities in which prisoners with drug dependence problems are helped to overcome addiction.