Spain: prisons have lowest inmate population in 10 years

Spanish prisons currently have the lowest number of inmates in ten years, thanks in part to legal reforms including the introduction of suspended sentences.

According to recently released statistics from the Instituciones Penitenciarias, Spain currently has 47,373 convicted criminals in its prison system. This marks a dramatic 38% decrease from its peak in 2009, when there were 65,500 convicts behind bars.

Reforms in Spain’s Criminal Code, including the introduction of suspended sentences, have been cited as reasons for this reduction in inmates. Of the country’s current prison population, just 7.4% (3514) are women while the rest (43,859) are men.

The most common crime for convicts to be serving sentences for is gender violence, a major problem across Spain, with 23,000 such inmates. Following closely is road safety crimes, with 19,000 reckless drivers currently incarcerated.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the Spanish prison system recorded around 800 cases among inmates. This rate of infection is 2.2 times lower than the average for the general population of Spain. In the first wave of the virus, four prison officers died of infections.

Half of all Spanish prisoners are currently enrolled in voluntary programmes to reform criminal behavior, including 6000 in a specialised gender violence scheme. There were 154 incidents of staff being attacked in jails in 2020, a 68% decrease from 2010 which saw 475 such incidents.

Several prisons have introduced video call facilities for inmates to speak to their loved ones, with such facilities expected to be ubiquitous across the system by the end of 2021.