Penitentiary Institutions opened the latest investigations last week, after denouncing an inmate who had been beaten in his cell by an official
The Ministry of the Interior has opened four investigations into cases of alleged mistreatment of prisoners registered this year in the Madrid VII Penitentiary Center, in the town of Estremera, as confirmed by sources from Penitentiary Institutions to EL PAÍS. The latest investigations began last week, after an inmate who had a mobile phone tapped, an object prohibited within the prison, reported having been beaten in his cell by a worker. In a report from September 2019, the Ombudsman already warned of the high incidence of this type of episodes in this prison, which in the last five years has registered 41 complaints. Interior insists on its policy of “zero tolerance for this type of conduct, being prosecuted both criminally and administratively.”
In a recent parliamentary response to the deputy of EH Bildu Jon Iñarritu, the Government admitted that in the five prisons in which between 2015 and 2019 there had been a greater number of complaints of mistreatment – 181 distributed between Castellón II, the Cadiz of Puerto III , Huelva, Sevilla II and Estremera–, in the first nine months of 2020 another 18 had been received. The Government highlighted that 93% of the latter had been archived without sanctions against officials, but admitted that four were still under judicial investigation or the Ombudsman had requested information. Of these, three took place in the Madrid jail, to which was added last week the complaint of the inmate whose mobile phone was intervened.
The first of these incidents in Estremera dates back to January, when a prisoner reported mistreatment after registering an incident involving several inmates who complained of lack of medical assistance, according to internal documents to which EL PAÍS has had access. This case is investigated by the Court of Instruction 8 of Arganda del Rey (Madrid). Also prosecuted is the complaint of a prisoner who claimed to have received a beating on September 9. For this event, in which the Committee against Torture of the Council of Europe has also been interested, disciplinary proceedings have been opened against seven officials.
The third case corresponds to an inmate who claims that, during the 30 days that he remained in the isolation unit at the end of the summer, he suffered “insults, humiliation and mistreatment. This case does not appear as prosecuted and Penitentiary Institutions classify it in its parliamentary response as “ongoing”. The fourth complaint is that of the inmate who had a mobile phone intervened, and that the Interior has referred to the judge on duty, as confirmed by ministry sources. In July 2019, Penitentiary Institutions ordered the directors of the prisons to delve into the investigation of complaints of mistreatment of inmates in an internal instruction in which they were urged to refer to the courts all the complaints of inmates for assaults evidence of injuries ”. The measure included a recommendation from the Ombudsman.
In its parliamentary responses to deputy Iñarritu, Interior explains the high incidence of complaints in the Estremera prison, where it is one of the prisons with the most prisoners – it houses 1,200 inmates and 500 officials work – and that, therefore, “concentrates inmates with a higher profile of conflict and dangerousness ”. In the letter, it also considers as a possible cause of conflict the location of the prison, away from urban centers, which “makes the frequency of visits to the prison population difficult.”
In September 2019, the annual report of the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (NPM) prepared by the Ombudsman already highlighted that “a very significant number” of prisoners in this Madrid jail – one of the seven in the region – had referred to “having suffered or having witnessed some type of mistreatment or aggression by officials of the center ”. The document, prepared after the visits made in 2019 by technicians of the institution that Francisco Fernández Marugán directs in office to 16 penitentiary centers, also emphasized that this Madrid prison was, in addition, from which “a considerable percentage of all complaints of mistreatment ”that the institution receives annually.
Technicians from the Torture Prevention Mechanism highlighted that only “a very small percentage” of the inmates they interviewed during their visit and who claimed to have suffered assaults or injuries in the Estremera prison had filed a complaint or complaint about these events. “The main reason alleged is the fear of retaliation, such as disciplinary sanctions, unjustified changes of prison or module, or the feeling that it is useless or that it may even be counterproductive,” the document added.
In previous reports, the Ombudsman had demanded that Penitentiary Institutions install video surveillance cameras where inmates are searched and the development with “urgency” of a rule to ensure the preservation of recorded images as the best way to prevent cases of mistreatment. He has also claimed that the cameras, in addition to capturing images, collect sound.