A Look at Jails in Spain

The incarcerated population continued to decline in 2015, a total of 19% in five years. Penal Code reform in 2010, reducing the length of sentences for some crimes and the implementation of new, lesser sentences for road security-related crimes helped drop the number.

The Spanish penal system is divided into two administrations:

For autonomous communities in Spain, except Catalonia, the General Secretariat of Penitentiary Institutions under the supervision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
For Catalonia: the General Directorate of Penal Services, under the supervision of the Generalitat’s Department of Justice. A joint committee aids in coordinating the two administrations’ activities.

The 1978 Constitution abolishes the death penalty, except during wartime. The 1995 Act abolishes the death penalty at all times. The last executions took place in 1975 when two militants from the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) were shot.

In 2014, the most recent year for which there are statistics, there were 28 suicides in Spanish correctional facilities.
Healthcare in Spanish prisons falls under the responsibility of the Minister of Internal Affairs.

A team of primary health care providers provides ambulatory care in the prisons. There are often not enough health care professionals (1 doctor per 1,200 prisoners).

Each prison is associated with a reference hospital, which must have a secured unit for patients.

According to a report released in 2014 from SGIP, 76% of the prisoners incarcerated this year took drugs the month prior to their incarceration. In risk reduction programmes, 6.9% of the prison population received methadone in 2014. Syringes and condoms are distributed to avoid the spread of HIV.

Therapeutic units, across the 42 penitentiary centers offer psychosocial support to inmates who are drug-addicts. However, access to therapeutic resources is limited. Help provided for drug addicts is mainly to serve as an alternative to imprisonment or as a follow-up workshop once the person is released, but not as a therapeutic and/or medical treatment.

The Spanish Society for Penitentiary Health (SESP) is pleading for penitentiary health to be attached to the Ministry of Health. This would facilitate the transfer of medical files and the coordination of health programmes. In Catalonia and the Basque Region, the jurisdiction of this service has been transferred to the Ministry of Health. In these two communities, the number of hospitalizations has decreased.

Spain’s general prison occupation rate is 91.8 prisoners by 100 places, while in the region of Catalonia that rate is a much higher 120.6, a 2013 Council of Europe report reveals. This compares to 96.6 percent occupancy in the UK.