Updated on 25 May 2020
An inmate showing symptoms compatible with Covid-19, or who has been in close contact with another person testing positive for Covid-19, will be placed in infirmary of the prison, in particular in the health isolation cells specially created to this end. The inmate will be tested by health care staff and provided with a face mask.
If the inmate tests positive of Covid-19, health case staff will decide the kind of treatment required for this person who will be preferably transferred to the Prison Hospital of Terrassa or will remain in the prison infirmary. Also, a thorough study of the individuals with whom s/he has been in close contact with to the date of isolation, will be undertaken and the appropriate measures will be applied to such contacts. The inmates that have been in contact with an infected person will also be placed separately in the infirmary of the prison and the course of action for potential cases will be implemented by health care staff.
The surfaces and rooms that a potential or confirmed case has been using, will be properly cleaned and disinfected according to the Health Department standards. The cleaning services provision has been intensified. New contracts have been signed with companies specialised on disinfection. Personal hygiene packs for inmates have been increased.
Upon admission, if the inmate shows symptoms or expresses having been in contact with someone with symptoms or a confirmed case, s/he will be transferred to a cell to be assessed by health staff who will decide whether s/he shall be placed in a health isolation cell. The rest of newly arrived inmates that are not isolated for health reasons, will be placed in a separate unit for 14 days before being transferred to the assigned unit.
In either case, newly arrived inmates will have access to the same kind of products they could access if placed in their assigned unit. They will also enjoy the outdoor time regularly allowed to inmates in the unit. When spending time outdoors, will only be grouped with other new inmates that have arrived the same day.
Transfers among prison establishments are postponed except for those that are strictly indispensable and those required for health reasons. Transfers to court premises are limited to those strictly indispensable which cannot take place through videoconference.
All kinds of family visits have been suspended until health authorities establish that these do not longer pose a risk to the inmates’ health. The possibility to bring parcels for inmates into the prison has been suspended.
In order to mitigate such restrictions, the number of phone calls inmates can make to their relatives has been increased from 10 to 20 per week (8 minutes per call). The cost of the calls made by those inmates that have no income is covered by every prison budget, also when the relatives live abroad. The possibility to make a collect call is always available.
In order to enable visual contact among inmates and their families as for 26 March additional electronic means are being piloted in a limited number of prisons:
The scheduling and allocation of video calls are being done by prison staff following the same rules that those applied to the actual family visits. The use and performance of the devices are always being managed by prison staff. The areas where such communications are taking place should allow for both, sufficient privacy for the inmate as well as for the required supervision by prison staff. Very detailed instructions have been provided for the cleaning process of the devices after each use.
Defence lawyers have been requested to preferably make use of the videoconference call system regularly available in Bar associations all over Catalonia (one in every province). Should the actual visit be really indispensable, will the lawyer be allowed to visit his/her client in the prison. In such cases and provided that the lawyer does not present any symptoms compatible with Covid-19, the visit will take place in a room with a glass partition.
Regular visits by consulates’ representatives have been suspended. If the inmate has a need requiring the consulate intervention, the prison management will channel it via the available means so that consulate support can be provided without posing risks to the inmates’ health.
Religious services have also been suspended as these require the entrance of the religious representatives inside the prison premises. However, religious support will be provided individually to the inmate requiring it and will take place in a glass partition room as far as the religious representative does not present any symptoms compatible with Covid-19.
All kinds of prison permits, leaves and scheduled exits granted to inmates (allowed for various specific activities in the community) have been suspended until health authorities establish that these do no longer pose a risk to the inmates’ health.
All treatment and rehabilitation programmes delivered by specialised prison staff continue to operate although the schedules have been rearranged and preventative measures must be observed. Inmates from different units cannot mix in a particular session, the rooms used will be spacious enough so that safety distance among individuals can be observed.
Production workshop Continue to operate although shifts have been rearranged so that inmates from different units do not meet in the same workshop in order to prevent the spread of infection. In particular, the workshops already working on clothing manufacture are now working intensively to deliver health staff clothing ordered by the Health Department.
The bakery, cooking and serving and laundry services are considered essential, hence they continue to operate as usual. The shifts of the inmates working in these services have been rearranged to minimise the contact among inmates from different units/wings.
Education activities for adults in prisons are being provided by the Education Department of the Government of Catalonia. In the community, activity in schools, university and vocational training were suspended as from 12 March, hence these activities have also been suspended inside the prison. In the community, teachers and pupils are using e-learning tools through internet. Resorting to internet with such platforms in prisons requires additional safety measures to ensure its proper use in the prison. The Education Department is looking into ways to make it possible for inmates to resort to self-learning tools.
Physical activity when not involving physical contact, is only taking place in outdoor areas inside the prison premises and observing the safety distance between individuals. Sports entailing physical contact or proximity among individuals cannot be practiced. Gyms and indoor sports courts and pitches have been temporarily closed.
All the activities that were being undertaken inside the prison by volunteers or external staff from community agencies have been suspended. External staff is only allowed to enter the prison when they are working on drug misuse treatment programmes, sex offender’s programmes and reintegration into the labour market.
Working hours within shifts has been rearranged in order to reduce rotation of professionals. New 187 prison staff members have been hired temporarily. The pool of candidates on the reserve list has been increased in order to speed up the replacement of staff that may need to go on a sick leave.
Prison staff interacting with inmates wear a face mask. Health staff and prison staff interacting with potential or confirmed cases wear a PPE. Hand sanitisers have been installed in various places within each prison. The provision of protective equipment is being increased.
Addressed to groups of no more than 10 inmates of same residential unit and in sufficiently big rooms. These sessions are meant to inform about the current restrictive measures in place inside the prisons, how to communicate with their relatives as well as about the health protocols being implemented in order to prevent infections and treat potential and positive cases. Information about the government restrictions being implemented in the community is also being explained. In the framework of these sessions, inmates can pose questions so that their concerns can be addressed by the staff.
A helpline has been set up through which prison social workers are providing support to and answering questions from families and friends of inmates.
After the preliminary preventative set of measures was implemented, on 14 March the Spanish government declared the state of alarm which amongst other measures, imposed movement restrictions and established new health safety measures for the whole of the population. In light of the new situation a more comprehensive set of measures was applied in Catalan prisons. New adjustments and improvements to the contingency plan are being made as often as needed.
Now, the Spanish government is implementing a phased approach to ease the lockdown which is applicable to all autonomous communities including Catalonia. It foresees 5 stages and at every stage a set of the restrictions imposed since 14 March (when the state of alarm was first declared) is lifted.
The transition throughout the stages is taking place unevenly across the country because it depends on how well a given health care administrative region (health services areas in which every autonomous community is divided into) scores on different aspects. The criteria that every health care region must meet in order to move on to the next stage have to do with the degree of preparedness of its hospitals for a new outbreak as well as the infection rates in that very region.
The lifting of measures in Catalan prisons and educative juvenile justice centres, will also be done by stages in accordance with the stage reached by the health care region where each prison is located. Nevertheless, depending on how the number of Covid-19 positive cases among inmates and staff evolves, health authorities might decide that a given prison cannot move on to the stage reached by its health care region. Currently, massive PCR testing is being conducted in prison staff and it will be conducted in inmates as well. In what follows only some of the relevant measures applicable to prisons on the 3 first stages are described.
Prisons in a health care region still on stage 0, the following activities will be resumed:
On stage 1 the following will be resumed:
On stage 2 the following will be resumed:
On stage 3 the following will be resumed:
*Videocalls will continue for inmates whose families cannot visit them in person.
Once completed the 3 stages and provided that all requirements are met, prisons will be able to move on to the “new normality” stage.
For any further questions regarding the procedures in the state of emergency taken by the Directorate General of Prison Services of Catalonia please contact the following:
Clara Casado Coronas
Directorate General of Prison Services of Catalonia
Supported by the Justice Programme of the European Union