Saturday, April 1

The Catalan Ombudsman asks not to apply the new protocol on the containment of prisoners with straps

The Síndic de Greuges, Rafael Ribó, has asked the Ministry of Justice to suspend the application of the new protocol on the mechanical restraints of prisoners in Catalan prisons, which is scheduled to come into force this Friday. The Catalan ombudsman has warned that the instructions drawn up by the department of Lourdes Ciuró (Junts) may represent a “regression of rights” and has warned that the Council of Europe is concerned about the new text.

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

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Sources from the Department of Justice have explained that the circular will come into force this Friday and have expressed their “surprise” at the Síndic’s request, given that it has been available for weeks to analyze it. “The circular and the protocol provide for the permanent monitoring of its implementation to correct all aspects that can be improved,” added the same sources.

As advanced, the new circular and the protocol replace those prepared by the team of the Republican Ester Capella during the last legislature and suppose to stop the plan that contemplated replacing the mechanical containment -immobilizing the inmates with handcuffs, adherent veins or restraint straps—by padded cells.

If in the previous plan it was clearly established that physical restraint would be prohibited when a padded cell was installed in the penitentiary, now that condition is blurred and a clear alternative to prohibiting mechanical restraint is not established. However, the plan maintains the objective of ‘zero containment’ and this Wednesday the Minister Ciuró announced the launch of a pilot plan to install a padded cell after having assured the Parliament a few weeks ago that it would not be possible due to lack of a installation company.

In this context, Ribó has presented a report in Parliament this Thursday with reproaches and recommendations for the new protocol, especially focused on the duration and form of containment and when and who should carry it out. The Council of Europe has repeatedly expressed its “concern” about the methods of fixation in Catalan prisons and had urged the Government to abolish mechanical fixation with straps.

The Catalan Ombudsman welcomes the fact that the new plan incorporates some of the recommendations of the Catalan Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (MCPT) “although not all of those that would be desirable”. Ribó has welcomed the implementation of cameras and audio recording devices in all the search rooms, in the containment cells and in the isolation cells of all the penitentiary centers, as well as the constitution of a working group to evaluate the correct application of the protocol, although it has stressed that it has not yet been constituted and it is not known who will form it.

He has also been satisfied that it is established that prisoners must be in a supine position – face up – and not prone – face down – as is practiced in the health field when they are subjected to restraint. However, Ribó has regretted that his suggestion that mechanical containment be carried out by health professionals and not by prison officials is not taken up. And he has shown his concern about the fact that the protocol omits any reference to the maximum duration of coercive means, which means incurring in a “clear regression of rights” that should be corrected as soon as possible.

The Ombudsman has also denounced that the protocol does not take into account the gender perspective regarding the application of containment to inmates, since it does not consider the individual characteristics of women. Particularly, from the moment the restraint is performed face up, the morphology of the woman is clearly different from that of the man and it is possible that the restraint with tapes should anticipate this.