Contact with the outside world

All prisoners have the right to receive visits


Each inmate has the right to two “ordinary” visits per week lasting for 20 minutes each, or a single visit of 40 minutes. “Ordinary” visits are permitted to inmates classed as “first and second grade”. “Third grade” inmates only have restricted daytime visits during their working hours.

The initial visit permit is granted after a meeting with family members at the prison. The family members must provide their name, address, ID, preferred day and time for the visit and their relationship to the inmate (via the family record book). The rules are different for non-family members. The prisoner requests a visit permit in writing, addressed to the prison governor, indicating the name and identify of the visitor. The governor decides whether or not to grant the permit.

Visit permits are granted

within a week

People eligible to visit

family and friends

Only family members and friends who have been authorised are allowed to visit a prisoner. Visits generally take place at the weekend and are limited to four visitors.

Prisoners and visitors can meet without physical barriers


Ordinary visits take place in an individual cubicle with a thick glass window separating the prisoner from their visitors.

Prisoners are allowed to receive visits from their children or minor relatives

yes, special arrangements are provided

Children are allowed to visit. Family visits are specially arranged for children. These are requested by inmates who are unable to get an exit permit and take place in a dedicated area where activities are organised for the children. Family visits take place at least once [a month] and last for between one and three hours.

Conjugal visits are allowed

  • A survey conducted by the Ministry of Health on a sample of 5,512 prisoners revealed that 48.4% of prisoners have one or more partners, of which 11.4% are in prison. 53.3% stated that they had been sexually active in the year prior to the survey. 97.9% of men and 89% of women who reported sexual activity said that the intercourse was heterosexual. 38.8% of prisoners who had had sexual encounters over the 12 months leading up to the survey said that they had used condoms. Figures for condom usage double when one of the partners is HIV-positive.

    / Government Delegation for the National Plan on Drugs, Survey on Health and Drug Use in the Inmate Population in Penitentiary Institutions (ESDIP)

Required conditions for conjugal visits

established relationship for at least six months

Conjugal visits are allowed on condition that written proof can be provided of a stable relationship lasting for at least six months (Instruction 4/2005 of the General Secretariat of Penitentiary Institutions - SGIP). The sexual orientation of the couple is not taken into account. Some sentencing judges allow conjugal visits for couples whose relationship was established through letter-writing. The visitor must not have a criminal record.

Conjugal visits known as “vis-à-vis” are available to prisoners without exit permits. They take place at least once a month. These visits last between one and three hours and take place in a dedicated room that provides guaranteed privacy. These visits are also available to two inmates.

Another type of conjugal visit is the “shared life” visit (“Comunicaciones de conviviencia“), which is reserved for inmates who lived as part of a stable couple (whether married or not) before their incarceration. Children of less than ten years old may be present. These take place at least once a quarter and may last for up to six hours. The visiting area is furnished and equipped with drinks machines and food products. The length of these visits can be reduced by half if the prison does not have adequate premises.

Visitors are permitted to bring books and clothing when they attend. Food products must be purchased by the visitor from the prison shop. Items are provided to the prisoner by different methods depending on the type of visit:

  • For ordinary visits, items are handed in when entering the prison, checked and then handed over to the prisoner.
  • For other visits (vis-à-vis, shared life, etc.), the items are given directly to the inmate, who is often searched at the end of the visit.

The concerns of the prison administration are the main consideration when placing prisoners in an establishment. Family ties tend to deteriorate between the inmate and their loved ones. Travel costs are often cited as a reason.
The case of Basque prisoners being held far from their families demonstrates this point.
The detained members of ETA1 accused of terrorism had previously been assigned to institutions across the country, in the framework of a dispersion policy implemented from 1987 to 2018. This meant that some families had to travel more than 1,000 kilometres in order to visit their detained relatives. As of 2018, a new policy has been implemented regarding the placement of ETA prisoners closer to their families. The Spanish government indicates, in March 2023, that 144 ETA prisoners are being held in the Basque Country. Twelve are still being held elsewhere and are awaiting transfer.

  1. Basque Country and Liberty (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) : Basque pro-independence organisation 

Prisoners are allowed to exchange mail


There is no limit to sending or receiving letters. The cost is borne by the prisoner.

Mail exchanged is subject to control


Letters received are often opened in the presence of the inmate so that the contents can be checked. Letters sent from prisons are also subject to censorship before being dispatched, although this generally does not apply to open prisons.

Prisoners are allowed to receive parcels

yes, under certain conditions

The number of parcels is limited to two per month, or one per month for “first grade” prisoners. A parcel cannot exceed five kilograms in weight. There is a list of banned items. Outgoing parcels are inspected prior to dispatch.

E-mail exchange is possible


Prisoners are allowed to make external phone calls


The rules allow five telephone calls per week (article 47). The prison authorities usually allow two calls, but the number varies according to the establishment and the detention regime. Each call is limited to five minutes.

Inbound calls are forbidden.

Prisoners are allowed to call


The prison management provides the initial authorisation. The inmate must provide details of the people they have selected, including their address, telephone number and the nature of their relationship.

The phones are located

in the communal areas

There is no guarantee of privacy when making calls.

The cost of phone calls is in line with market prices


Telefónica” (telecoms company) has the monopoly in the sale of telephone cards. These are more expensive than they would be in the outside world.

Phones calls are wire tapped


Phone tapping is only used on inmates who are undergoing special surveillance (under the FIES regime – “Fichero de internos de especial seguimiento”).

The use of cell phones is authorised


The use of cell phones obtained on the black market is common. Inmates have an established network for lending and borrowing cell phones. Possession of a cell phone leads to disciplinary action (solitary confinement, withdrawal of walking rights, etc.)

Prisoners have access to video calls with external contacts


Inmates who have not had any visitors for a period of at least four months can request access to video-conferencing facilities.