More than 20 organizations request urgent measures to the Ministry of the Interior and Penitentiary Institutions

Foto: Sònia Calvó


Among other measures, they ask to reinforce the staff of health personnel inside the prison or the release of those people with a more serious health condition.

[Catalonia], March 15, 2020. This morning more than two dozen organizations have registered a letter in front of the Ministry of the Interior and the General Secretary of Penitentiary Institutions requesting “a series of urgent measures to ensure the fundamental rights of persons deprived of liberty”. The organizations, among which are the Observatori del Sistema Penal i els Drets Humans, the Xarxa Jurídica, Irídia or the Coordinadora de Barris, show their concern for “the effects that the coronavirus may have on the health and rights of prisoners”.

In the letter sent to the penitentiary administration to the Ministry headed by Grande-Marlaska, they warn that, according to the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, an “inadequate medical service in prison can amount to inhuman or degrading treatment”. Therefore, they point out that “situations may arise in which the proper administration of criminal justice requires the adoption of humanitarian measures such as release from prison or home detention”. In this sense, they point out that “our legal system, for example, has alternative measures to the deprivation of liberty in prison for those who are ill or elderly”.

Therefore, given the critical situation of in-prison health care and the effects that the coronavirus can have on a particularly vulnerable population, the organizations have asked the Prison Administration to, in the first place, “to immediately reinforce the staff of health personnel inside the prison, as well as that the isolation of the people affected by the coronavirus takes place in a medical facility instead of in a cell”. Secondly, among the measures for humanitarian excarceration, they request “the immediate excarceration of seriously ill inmates and those over 70 years of age because they constitute a group with a double risk in the same way as the preventive population, establishing other types of controls if necessary”. Thirdly, with respect to communication between family members and prisoners, they request the “gratuity of the so-called external telephone calls and the increase of ordinary oral communications through speakers”.

Furthermore, in view of the announcement of the cancellation of all types of communications made by the Ministry of the Interior, which we oppose, we request the urgent installation of a video surveillance system in all prisons between prisoners and the people with whom they carry out ordinary communications. It makes no sense in these moments not to implement, also in the prisons, the communication technologies available to the rest of the citizenship.

Is about, as the organizations point out, of “adopting urgent measures to avoid, on the one hand, the spread of the coronavirus inside the prisons and, on the other hand, to guarantee the fundamental rights of those deprived of liberty”.