Spain: managing uncertainty
The Spanish reaction to the sanitary crisis in prison and its consequences
Spain is one of the European countries most affected by the first wave of the pandemic. The Minister of the Interior declared the state of emergency (estado de alarma) on 15 March 2020, which was followed by the suspension of visits in prison facilities. Sanitary measures in prisons were taken accordingly to the local context. They varied from one Community to another, especially between Catalonia and the rest of the country. The number of infections were kept relatively low, in comparison to outside situation: 85 prisoners were infected between March and July. The Observatory of the Penal System and Human Rights (Observatori del Sistema Penal i els Drets Humans, OSPDH) has been monitoring the pandemic in prisons and publishing updates since the beginning of the crisis.
The management of the crisis by the authorities was criticised by prisoners and prison staff. The lack of PPE increased the tension in the prisons and several riots occurred. Local organisations denounced facilities’ practices that were not deemed compatible with sanitary requirements. Compensatory measures were put in place, but inequalities in their access were highlighted.
Since November 2020, several facilities have reintroduced severe restriction measures such as the suspension of visits and of day releases.
Prison Insider and the Centre for Studies on Justice and Society (Chile) propose an analysis of the first year of the pandemic in prisons in eleven countries. Spain is one of them.