Palma prison, Mallorca

Palma prison.

05-12-2021Alejandro Sepúlveda

The prison in Palma houses 1,066 inmates, of whom a third (355) are foreigners. Moroccans, Colombians, Romanians, Algerians, Italians, Brazilians, Chileans - these are the main nationalities.

Robbery offences account for almost half the prisoners (508). They are followed by those involved in fights and assaults (causing injury) - 262; drug dealers and traffickers (246); abusers (167); people who violate public order (133); those who commit crimes against the administration of justice (94); and sexual offenders (80). There has been an increase in this latter group in recent months, coincidental with an ending of mobility restrictions brought in because of the pandemic.

Francisco José Baldonedo, prison governor since December 2017, says that 90% of the inmates have been double vaccinated. "There is a low number of deniers. They do not want to have the vaccine. We have to respect them."

The work of the governor and his staff (some 500 in total) has been key in recent times in making Palma prison what is considered to be "low conflict", This is in contrast to some other national prisons, where fights and assaults are the order of the day.

There are fifteen modules at the prison. These include one where men and women share common spaces; it was pioneering in Spain when it was established. A "sports" module is a particular initiative by Baldonedo - to promote sport as a counter to drug taking.

There are modules for "dangerous" repeat offenders, but for the governor this definition is relative. "For example, we have a confessed murderer from Palma who doesn't cause any problem. He is not confrontational." The isolation unit has very strict rules. Prisoners can have four hours in the courtyard but without mixing with other inmates.

The virus forced changes to prison habits. "2020 was the worse year. It was the period of greatest uncertainty and we didn't have the means that exist now to fight the pandemic." Visits had to be restricted and were substituted by teleconferences. All prisoners who enter have to be quarantined.

Baldonedo is proud of the Spanish prison system: "We are one of the best in Europe and even in the world. We can be satisfied. Here, if someone goes to jail, his or her rights are not cancelled."

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