Author(s)Observatorio del Sistema Penal y de Derechos Humanos de de la Universidad Autores de Barcelona (OSPHD) / Infoprisión / Asociación Pro-Derechos Humanos de Andalucia (APDHA / Solidarios / Prison Insider


Spain is a good European example for several reasons.
The prison population continues to decline, with a reduction in prisoners of 1.3% in 2017. While some establishments are still overcrowded, the national occupancy rate is estimated at 71.8%.
The publication of statistical data is carried out on a regular basis and is easily accessible to the general public. Conditions of detention are generally considered to be satisfactory, in particular with respect to hygiene, the maintenance of links with family and the opening up of prisons to external volunteers.

However, certain supervisory bodies and society at large warn of deficiencies in terms of access to health care. The prison health system remains under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior, although a 2003 law transferred these powers to autonomous communities. The number of medical staff is not sufficient to meet prisoner demand, thus access to treatment is limited, especially for those suffering from hepatitis C. Budgetary restrictions are cited as one of the main causes of this deficiency.

The use of restraint is considered excessive and does not meet European standards. In some cases restraint is used as punishment. Prisoners can remain tied to a bed for several hours to up to several days, without adequate supervision or records of these incidents.

In 2017 a minor died in Melilla City detention centre. He lost consciousness due to restraint being applied. On the way to hospital he had a cardiovascular arrest and died. The Ombudsman noted that restraint was applied by six people, using excessive force. The Department of Security and Justice is conducting an investigation.

Read full country-profile

You can consult the Spanish version as well.


Country population


Type of government

Constitutional monarchy

Human Development Index