Daily life

All prisoners are entitled to spend at least one hour a day in the open air


The length of time spent outside of the cell varies according to the regime and the prison. Prisoners within the ordinary regime can often spend up to ten and a half hours outside of their cells. They can leave the cell between 8am and 2pm and between 4:30pm and 9pm (in the communal areas of their unit or when taking part in an activity). Prisoners classified as “first grade” typically spend four hours per day outside of their cells. Article 93 of the prison regulations stipulates the restrictions that apply to access to the courtyard. Prisoners classified as “first grade” can access the courtyard for at least three hours per day. They are allowed to stay outside in pairs. The guards carry out a search on any person in solitary confinement who wishes to use the courtyard. This search is often described as aggressive. The time when prisoners are allowed outside alternates every day between morning and evening. There can be a period of twenty-six hours between outings.

The prison service offers activities to prisoners


Inmates show a real interest in organised activities and the level of participation is considered to be satisfactory. Prisoners classed as “first grade” have limited access to activities.

There are designated places for physical activities and sports

  • The Ministry of the Interior announced the reopening of a dozen or so pools after two years of closures related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The prison facilities authorised to reopen their pools starting 15 June are Dueñas (Palencia), Topas (Salamanca), Zuera (Zaragoza), Villena and Picassent (Alicante), Albolote (Granada) and Las Palmas (Canary Islands). The Professional Association of Prison Staff (Asociación Profesional de Funcionarios de Prisiones, APFP) stated that reopening the pools will cost 207,390 euros, plus 27,792 euros for water costs, 33,087 euros for electricity, 41,947 euros for chlorine, and 41,422 euros for salaries and national insurance for lifeguards. The unions Your Neglect Could Kill Me (Tu Abandono Me Puede Matar, TAMPM) and APFP criticised the high costs, which they judge to be low priority. They instead emphasised the necessity of increasing staff numbers and salaries.

    / The Objective

There are designated places for cultural activities


Two types of activity are well established:

  • The library and guided reading programme. This programme is run in partnership with the General Directorate of Cultural Policy and Industries, and Literature. Its aim is to encourage and reinforce reading habits for inmates in prison. 52 establishments have benefited from teams of reading coaches during the course of 2016.
  • Creative cultural workshops for inmates (theatre, music, radio, television, writing workshops, painting, photography, sculpture, ceramics)

The inmates are actively involved in designing the activities on offer.

/ General Secretariat of Penitentiary Institutions "General report 2016 SGIP", 2017.

The activity programmes are evaluated and approved by the prison administration. The establishment and the activity partner sign a two-year co-operation agreement. It is rare for an establishment to oppose a proposed activity programme. Cancellations are rare. The usual reasons are lack of co-ordination or communication. These problems are caused by a large number of organisations working within a limited space (700 organisations and 8,000 external participants).

Prison facilities have a library


Prisons do not always have a reading room.

  • The libraries of the Spanish prison system contain over 900,000 publications. The most-read authors among prisoners in 2021 were Follett, Vázquez Fiqueroa and Pérez-Reverte.

    / El pais

A typical day is as follows:

  • 7am: wake-up, prisoner roll-call
  • 8am – 9am: breakfast
  • 9am – 1pm: activities (work, training, community activities)
  • 1pm – 5pm: lunch, rest
  • 5pm – 8pm: activities
  • 8pm – 9pm: evening meal

Work is compulsory


All prisoners are allowed to work


Prison regulations set out the access criteria for work. Access to work is used as a reward for good behaviour. Prisoners classified as “first grade” rarely get access to work. The prison leadership committee examines the request, considers their approval and carries out a follow-up.

The offered work comprises three types of activity:

  • General prison services. This refers to work that contributes to the day-to-day running of the prison (cooking and baking, laundry, maintenance, shops, gardening, ancillary services)
  • Workshops organised by and for the prison administration. Production of goods and services marketed by the prison administration (clothing manufacture, metalwork and woodwork, printing, agricultural work).
  • Work organised by private firms (packing, assembly, fabrication).

Inmates placed in open prisons work outside the prison.

Prisoners are not given an employment contract.

Maximum daily/weekly working hours are set, including at least one day of rest


The working day varies according to the activity or the needs of the private firms. Generally, the hours of work are from 9am to 1pm and from 5pm to 8pm.

Prisoners are paid for their work


Salaries are

slightly below the national minimum wage

The minimum wage in Spain is €5.45 per hour (2019).

  • The average salaries of prisoners working in the Spanish prisons is reportedly between 200 and 300 euros per month. The hourly rate fluctuates between 3.20 and 4.50 euros for workers without specialist skills.

    Minimum wage is set at 1,000 euros per month.

    / Newtral

Prisoners are paid on a piecework basis


Wages are calculated based on hours worked.

Their income is subject to social contributions


Inmates are entitled to standard employee benefits and are enrolled in the social security system. Inmates’ enrolment in the standard regime gives them state retirement rights. Unemployment benefit is generally minimal and would override the prison leavers benefit, which is higher and paid out for a longer period of time.

Prisoners have the right to join trade unions


Work is not a factor in helping to adjust a sentence, but it can facilitate an early release.

Authority(ies) in charge of education and vocational training

Penitentiary Employment and Job Training (TPFE)

The TPFE is part of the Ministry of the Interior

The training providers are backed by the Ministry of Education, and the Educational Committees of the Autonomous Communities. Trainers are recruited by the Educational Committees. Learning and employment workshops are offered and financed by the European Union or the government. Certain workshops, for example those concerning health issues or substance abuse, are devolved to specialist organisations.

Education is provided

in all facilities

Education is available for all prisoners


All prison inmates have access to an academic education. Basic education is always available to those who require it. Inmates can also request a higher-level distance-learning course. Those placed in a closed regime or in solitary confinement find it challenging to access education.

The prison service implements measures to fight illiteracy


Basic literacy training is given to relevant inmates, young people and foreign prisoners.

Prisoners are allowed to pass diplomas and entry examinations


Vocational training is provided


Vocational training is available for all prisoners


Vocational training is accessible to the whole inmate population. Courses vary according to the resources available at the prison. Prisoners in an open regime can also access these training programmes.

Distance courses are available


Inmates can access distance learning via the National University of Distance Learning (UNED). UNED is most active during the summer, when academic activity is at its lowest. Examinations for distance learning courses are held at the establishment.

Prisoners have access to computers

in some facilities

It is possible for inmates to deliver training courses; for example, a theatrical course offered in four prisons in Madrid. Inmates are not remunerated for these activities, but their activity is taken into account for social security.

Prisoners are allowed to keep themselves informed regularly on public affairs

depending on the prison regimes

“First grade” prisoners have restricted access to the media.

Prisoners have access to a television


Televisions are provided in communal areas. Inmates can pay to watch television in their cells.

Prisoners have access to a radio



Prisoners have access to the press


Inmates must buy their own newspapers.

The prison service allows access to Internet

in some facilities

Inmates can access the internet during IT classes. Access to some sites is restricted.

The following religions are the most common: Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Muslim, Orthodox and Jehovah’s Witness.

Prisoners are free to practice their religion and follow their beliefs


The prison administration guarantees the freedom to follow and practice a religion (art. 54 of the Penitentiary Law). Article 230 of the prison regulations states that the prison administration must respect the rituals, holy days and dietary requirements associated with different religions, whilst taking into account budgetary constraints, safety, prison life and the rights of other inmates.

Dedicated places of worship are available

in all facilities

In closed regimes, attending a place of worship is problematic due to the limited number of hours allowed in communal areas.

There are chaplains in the prisons


  • On 13 August, an evangelical chaplain performed an exorcism on a female prisoner in the Brians I prison (Barcelona). He was subsequently dismissed from his role for breaking the internal rules and regulations, which require him to report the activities he plans to perform. His accreditation was revoked by the Church. The prison service has suspended his pastoral work in detention. The event was called a “error” during a meeting between the Ministry of Justice and evangelical representatives. The pastoral and social work of evangelists in prisons has continued normally.

    / El Pais

Individuals or organisations from the outside are allowed to participate in prison activities


The prison administration has been partnering with external organisations (both public and private) since 1979.

Authorisations for external actors to take part in prison activities are provided by

  • the prison service
  • the prison governor

The organisations represent a number of different areas: health and substance abuse, reintegration, education, employment training, social awareness of the prison environment.

Some organisations receive public subsidies. For example, the “Solidarios” organisation provides socio-cultural activities and 89% of their 2017 budget was subsidised by public bodies.

Prisoners are allowed to make use of financial resources


Inmates can purchase a range of authorised products from the prison shop. This includes food products that do not require cooking, tobacco, clothing, toiletries, etc. In exceptional circumstances, prison staff can purchase items on behalf of prisoners (books, televisions, etc.) from outside.

Financial resources are accessible

in a named account

Cash is not allowed to be used within the prison. Transactions can be made by fund transfer and money order at the prison counter. The sender is charged a fee for transferring money. Deposits are made at the prison counter. The Ombudsman has noted worsening conditions for inmates making these transactions. Prisoners face significant challenges in receiving funds into their accounts1.

  1. Ombudsman, “Annual Report and Court Cases 2017”, 2018, p.203 (in Spanish) 

Destitute prisoners receive financial or in-kind support


The prison administration gives preferential treatment to prisoners in poverty when assigning work. Inmates in these circumstances are also provided with new clothes every six months.

The typical profile of an inmate is a man with an average age of thirty-nine years old, financially insecure, poorly educated, vulnerable and socially excluded. He is often affected by a mental health issue. Female inmates share a similar profile.

Prisoners have the right of association


The right of association does not exist in Spanish establishments. Inmates placed in the “Respect modules” are able to organise meetings amongst themselves and make suggestions about their circumstances.

Prisoners have the right to vote


Inmates have had the right to vote since 1995, with the exception of those who have been deprived of this right by the judiciary. Prisoners cannot put themselves forward as political candidates. The level of participation in elections is low.

Inmates sometimes produce radio broadcasts on the prison radio station, an example being the “A Lama” prison in Pontevedra.

In 2017, the Association for Human Rights of Andalusia alerted the Ombudsman to the challenges faced by inmates in making contact with journalists. The organisation condemned the refusal of a prison governor to allow a meeting with a journalist without any justification (i.e. without a written response). The Ombudsman reiterated that any refusal must have a legal basis1.

  1. Ombudsman, “Annual Report and Court Cases 2017”, 2018, p.206 (in Spanish)