Some 5,300 third degree prisoners are serving sentences in their homes with telematic monitoring due to the coronavirus pandemic. With the de-escalation underway, the Secretary General of Penitentiary Institutions, Ángel Luis Ortiz, believes that, analyzed on a case-by-case basis, the majority will be able to continue in this situation.
As the video calls of the inmates with their families could also be maintained, a pioneering measure that Prisons adopted due to the health crisis of COVID-19 to alleviate the restrictions that it was forced to avoid contagions in the prison environment dependent on the central administration (all centers except those in Catalonia).
These are some of the proposals that he advances to Efe Ortiz shortly after the order of the Ministry of the Interior for the de-escalation in the prisons has come into force, which has reduced its population by about 2,300 inmates due to the decrease in crime and the exits for compliance with the sentence, so the total figure -48,600- stands at the levels of the year 2002.
5,300 PRISONERS COULD CONTINUE FULFILLING AT HOME WHAT IS LEFT OF SENTENCE
Political parties such as Podemos or associations for the defense of human rights have demanded that penitentiary institutions follow the 5,300 third-degree inmates at their homes, who, as a matter of urgency and to avoid contagions, agreed to comply with it in accordance with article 86.4 of the prison regulations, that is, with telematic control.
In a telematic interview with Efe, Ángel Luis Ortiz announces that next week they will begin to individually evaluate each case – the treatment boards of each center will do so – to determine if they have complied with the conditions imposed and if their stay in the domicile.
Ortiz acknowledges that there have been “very few” incidents in telematic control, and “if that is so, if confirmed on a case-by-case basis, it can be said that many or a good part will be able to continue perfectly in that regime contemplated in the law, which it is a third grade modality: telematic control “.
However, he warns that just as the Spanish system allows grade progression, “you can also go back”, because “everything is capable of taking a step back; if it has to be taken, it will be done”.
VIDEO CALLS: THE INITIATIVE THAT CAME TO STAY
Interior wanted to alleviate the worsening isolation that prisoners already suffer, who have now been banned from visits, vis a vis and other activities due to the pandemic. And for that relief, the number of calls to which they are entitled was increased and the video call was implanted.
“The truth is that of all the measures adopted, this has been the most widely accepted, as acknowledged by the directors, officials and NGOs,” says Ortiz, after explaining that 230 telephones have been distributed among the centers so that inmates “can see each other with their families.”
A welcome reception of a measure that Prisons wants to continue and become a new form of communication. For this, Ortiz sees a reform of the regulation necessary, but as this “can be a little slow”, he points out the possibility of enabling this system through an instruction, once the new normality arrives.
Before, Prisons faces the process of de-escalation in the prisons of the territories in phase one, where already this weekend ordinary communications in the parlor will begin, but reduced to 50 percent and with the requirements of the mandatory use of mask and gloves .
So far, 400,000 masks have been distributed and other contracts are being processed to expand that number, Ortiz says.
Also, and since Monday, the prisoners to whom the pandemic suspended the authorized exit permits will be able to enjoy them, but upon their return, they will have to spend “an observation period”, as well as those newly admitted inmates.
According to Ortiz, at this time the prison system has sufficient infrastructure for these “quarantines.” Even in the medium term, the head of the Prisons believes that the mandate of article 19 of the prison law: One prisoner per cell can be realized.
FROM THE FIRST MOMENT, THE INMATES WERE EXPLAINED
Two circumstances allow Ortiz to describe as “positive” the balance of the state of alarm in prisons: the “professionalism and dedication” of the 24,000 workers and the behavior of the inmates.
And he comes to this conclusion after admitting that when the crisis began he was “afraid” that the confinement would have the effects that have been seen in countries like Italy, with riots in prisons, but “the pedagogical work” of the officials towards the internal, which was one of the basic instructions of the General Secretariat, has resulted in virtually no conflict.
That from the first moment the reality of what was happening outside, that “we have tried to be as transparent as possible” has been explained to the inmates, has contributed to maintaining that calm, he adds.
Officials, whose professionalism “is beyond doubt,” have had a lot to do with, according to Ortiz, who assures that as soon as possible, negotiations will be resumed to improve their working conditions, in addition to increasing job offers. At the moment, 900 new officials are waiting for the training courses to join the staff.
PENITENTIAL HEALTH FOR THE AUTONOMIES,
A staff that is deficient in health personnel, as Ortiz regrets when remembering that there are not enough candidates for the positions that are called.
During the pandemic, six new interim doctors have joined, and at the end of this month or in the first week of June, 40 new doctors will do so, also on an interim basis.
They are shock measures for an old problem whose solution is through the transfer to the autonomous communities of prison health, something that is provided for in a 2003 law with a mandate that has not yet been fulfilled.
While, during the coronavirus health crisis, coordination with the single command of the Ministry of Health “has been good”, Ortiz emphasizes before stressing that all the sanitary actions in prison in this period “have always been approved by the Ministry and executed by our doctors. “
By Sagrario Ortega and Laura Camacho