The Spanish Ministry of the Interior sent a document to penitentiary centers across the kingdom on Wednesday, March 18, recommending that they allow prisoners already receiving sentencing arrangements to stay at home. A measure which aims to limit the risks of contagion from coronavirus and to appease prisoners on day parole, often at the end of their sentence, who have seen penal establishments close their doors in recent days and prohibit visits.
Spain is the second country hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic in Europe, after Italy, with 17,147 confirmed cases and 767 dead, according to the latest report on Thursday. Since the start of the epidemic, eleven prison guards and three detainees (out of a prison population of more than 58,000) have tested positive, according to the Department of Prison Institutions. The former were placed in quarantine, the latter in solitary confinement, in separate modules, as were some sixty inmates showing symptoms or having been in contact with the sick. And to avoid a rapid spread in prisons, measures to restrict visits were quick.
As of March 10, the regions of Madrid, the Basque Country and La Rioja, the main centers of the epidemic in the country, banned visits outside the visiting rooms, whether intimate or family. A measure extended to all other prisons two days later. Then, on March 15, with the application of the state of alert, all visits to detainees – considered to be a “vulnerable” group – were suspended, as were all exit permits.
Only inmates on day parole – just over 8,000 – were able to continue carrying out their usual activities, generally working or volunteering. On each return to prison, to spend the night there, they had to respect a health protocol.
To limit these comings and goings and better protect the health of detainees, the government has therefore recalled that the law allows the Prison Treatment Committees of each center to establish telematic control measures for prisoners with a “flexible” prison regime So that they can sleep at home. And, in the absence of sufficient electronic bracelets – Spain only has 2,300 -, they were told that a simple random telephone check is also possible. Each prison will have to decide on a case-by-case basis to apply this alternative sentencing measure, which also aims to limit tensions.