Tuesday, August 3

The double condemnation of vis a vis


Palma de Mllorca

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Through the glass, Paco (not his real name) watches his two-year-old daughter grow. The girl has begun to speak, she blows kisses in the air and asks her with outstretched arms: “Why don’t you go out?”. It’s hard to explain … He hasn’t hugged his wife and baby for more than a year. Since the state of alarm was decreed on March 15, 2020, he has not had a vis a vis jail in Palma, where he is serving a sentence. Like Paco, thousands of prisoners have had their permits, packages and visits suspended due to the coronavirus. “The inmates feel that the loss of their rights has been normalized and that they suffer a double penalty”, family members of several prisoners at the doors of the Mallorcan prison report to ABC.

Laura remembers that the last time she kissed her husband, Paco, was on Valentine’s Day 2020. The following month, they were going to celebrate Father’s Day but the appointment was canceled until today. The Palma prison imposed strict security measures to prevent the entry of the coronavirus, as in most Spanish prisons. No intimate visits, no family communications, no packages. Scheduled departures and inter-center transfers were canceled, unless they were due “to exceptional health or judicial reasons.” Entry authorizations for NGO volunteers, collaborating entities and accredited professionals were also suspended., restricting access to non-prison staff whose work was “essential”.

“Violation” of rights

“In exchange, they gave us five more phone calls a week (15 instead of 10), paid for by the inmate, and an eight-minute video call a month. This is how they compensated two vis a vis 90 minutes a month ”, complain the families, who have started a particular struggle to denounce the “Violation” of the rights of inmates.

In August, special communications (the so-called vis a vis) were reestablished in the Mallorcan prison but they were suspended again after 15 days and many families “They were left hanging because they did not have time to enjoy this right”Laura regrets, who was one of the victims.

With these restrictions, the situation of the 50,000 inmates in Spain is desperate, “A difficult situation for a free citizen to understand,” regrets the platform Families and friends of the Palma prison, which has led the Ombudsman to suspend oral communications (those made in a call center through a cristal) and the special ones (vis a vis).

«The adoption of such measures seriously and injuriously affects the fundamental rights of the prison population, and in no case should it be understood that the restrictions can be operated without the motivation that the safeguarding of fundamental rights in an automatic, general and indiscriminate way ”, they argue.

Since the start of the pandemic, eight prisoners have died, 1,928 positives have been detected and there are 147 active cases among inmates in Spanish prisons. The debate on the limits of the state of alarm and the disparity between the judges on the reduction of fundamental freedoms have led Penitentiary Institutions to leave the decision to restrict the rights of inmates in the hands of each center.

Each prison analyzes its epidemiological situation and that of the geographical area in which it is located. Following the recommendations of the Central Services, the penitentiary centers make decisions about oral and special communications, they explain to ABC from Penitentiary Institutions, aware of the discomfort among inmates and their families. From the Palma prison they refused to make statements to this newspaper and sent it to the Ministry of the Interior.

A few days ago, the vis a vis were reestablished in Palma but other prisons still do not authorize them. “My husband and the rest of the prisoners have already requested a family or intimate visit and we are awaiting the date they give us in April,” says Laura with a broken voice. She has asked for a family visit to be able to go with the girl but they have told her that they will have to keep the door open. On the other hand, if he had asked for an intimate communication, it could be closed, he complains. “Everything is absurd”. Before the pandemic, they were entitled to two a month, “now they take one away from us.” “Until when more cuts in rights?”

The hug is closer but Laura is concerned about her boy’s health: “He is very discouraged.” He says that he always stays in his ‘shack’ following the recommendations so as not to get infected, that what was once a punishment is now normal. “They hardly go out to socialize and live in isolation.” The double sentence that the Covid brought.

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