Friday, June 9

Catalonia renounces the plan to prohibit the containment of prisoners with straps

One of the most ambitious measures of the Generalitat in Catalan prisons has been parked. The Ministry of Justice, in the hands of Lourdes Ciuró (Junts), has stopped the plan, approved by the department in the hands of the ERC in the last legislature, which contemplated replacing mechanical restraint – immobilizing inmates with handcuffs, adherent veins or straps fastening— by padded cells.

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The new circular and the protocol drafted by Justice, which will come into force on April 1, maintain the same objective as the plan launched by the previous team of the Republican Ester Capella: “zero containment” in Catalan prisons. The ways to achieve it, however, differ. If in the previous plan it was clearly established that physical containment would be prohibited when a padded cell was installed, in the new circular and the protocol that develops it, to which has had access, that condition is blurred. Nor is there a clear alternative to prohibit mechanical restraint, as the previous regulation did through padded cells.

In the new text, the padded cell is mentioned only once, downgrading it to a “possible alternative” to mechanical restraint in prisons, which will be dealt with by a working group of the ministry to analyze the implementation of the protocol . Sources from the Department of Justice have indicated that this working group has not yet been constituted nor has a deadline been given to carry out the evaluation of the new circular.

The previous protocol was published in ERC discount time in the ministry after a long claim by both Catalan and international human rights entities. The Council of Europe had on several occasions expressed its “concern” about the fixation methods in Catalan prisons and had urged the Government to abolish mechanical fixation with straps.

Before implementing them in all penitentiary centers, the ERC plan contemplated a pilot plan to install a padded cell without dangerous elements for the physical integrity of the inmate in the Brians prison. This cell was to allow safe physical separation and interaction between the officer and the inmate, and everything would be recorded on video and audio. However, the new heads of the ministry have not been able to execute this pilot plan.

According to Minister Ciuró in her last parliamentary intervention, the pilot plan could not be carried out because the department only found an Irish company, with no headquarters in Catalonia or in the rest of Spain, that could install a padded cell, which made it impossible carry out a public contracting file.

The new circular defends the repeal of the current protocol because, as it highlights, it has caused in less than a year “a significant decrease in the number of restraints” (23%) in prisons in parallel to “a relative growth in incidents” , both self-inflicted injuries (45%) and attacks on prison officers (31%).

The conclusions of the general director of prisons, César Galván, are in line with the unions of prison officials, who have been denouncing for months the increase in attacks in prisons and demanding the repeal of the protocol. On the other hand, they turn their backs on the groups in defense of the rights of prisoners, who had celebrated the approval of the previous regulations.

The practical elimination of the plan to install padded cells is the most relevant difference between the two texts. Both contemplate a progressive use of means when dealing with situations of aggressiveness or behavior alterations of inmates in prison. Before applying coercive means, talk to the inmate and redirect the conflict situation. If this does not work, the inmate is authorized to be transferred to an isolation cell, which must last “the minimum time necessary until the causes that have justified it disappear.”

Regarding mechanical restraint, the new protocol authorizes – like the previous one – the immobilization of the inmate with metal handcuffs for a period of less than 30 minutes. Mechanical restraint in a bed with approved psychiatric-type textile straps is defined as an “exceptional” measure that can only be applied when there is an “imminent” risk against the inmate himself, other inmates or officials once the “exhausted or impossible” verbal restraint and there is no other “less harmful way of redirecting the risks” presented by the prisoner.

“Whenever possible”, adds the protocol, before immobilizing the inmate in bed, the person in charge of the service must notify the doctor on duty so that he can report if there is any “medical impediment” to apply the measure and assess the “relevance” immobilization from a health point of view. The new protocol also gives six months to install audio in the cameras in the holding cells of the Quatre Camins, Brians 2 and Jovenes prisons, the only ones that still do not have this technology.