Spanish penitentiary system and laws

Time in prison serving a final sentence is always considered a dreadful experience with only negative resonances.

However, there are many legal and administrative resources which those whom are convicted can use to their benefit to considerably shorten the time spent in prison. Contrary to commonly belief, active legal assistance can reduce the time actually served. By using legal resources it is possible to reduce the length of a convict´s stay by 25 or 30 %.

Firstly, when the sentence becomes final, (when there are no more possibilities for further appeal) it is important to be interned as soon as possible. Entering prison voluntary before the elapse of the given term (usually 10 / 15 days) will add a positive note in the prisoner´s file which will remain thus for the whole time served, and will positively influence the whole sentence.

Secondly, the solicitor must be sure that his client is classified as soon as possible when he gets to prison and begins serving the sentence. The Law sets a term of 60 days for all convicted people to be classified within. The term begins from the first day of internment; in many cases due to various circumstances the term is not met. It is important to be classified as soon as possible because the prisoners´ rights to certain benefits can be only applied to those inmates who have been duly processed and classified.

The classification is a brief resolution issued by the prison board. Each prisoner should be interviewed by the board which usually consists of a medical doctor, a psychologist and a social worker.

There are three grades or classification. The first grade is applied only to those given very long sentences for violent crimes and who show little or no disposition to follow the prison rules. The second grade, which applies to the majority of those convicted, and the third grade, which is an open regime which allows work outside of prison and weekends spent at home. This is seldom granted in the initial classification.

As 95 % of inmates are classified in the second grade, it is important to seek “progression” to the third grade as soon as possible, as this grade allows the prisoner to work and virtually carry on with normal life outside the prison.

The best way to progress to the third grade is through the use of “short leaves” from prison, known as “permits” in Spain. These leaves, of 3 or 6 days at a time, are authorised so the inmates can leave the prison every 45 days. The benefit of this is that it allows the prisoner to show that they can be trusted while they are gradually reintegrated into society. There is no restriction as to how soon these short leaves can be requested therefore they can be requested as soon as the inmate is initially classified.

An important fact is that all inmates go through a revision of their grade every 90 days from the first classification. The prison boards also normally requests at least two short leaves made without issues before an inmate can progress from second to third grade, so the more short leaves completed the greater the chances of being progressed to third grade in a regular grade revision.

The last phase of the sentence is the conditional release. This is a percentage of the sentence in which the prison board grants the inmate a release, with the remainder of sentence being suspended. This means that the inmate is completely free to get on with normal life, with the only restriction being that if an offence is committed during the term of the suspension, he will lose this privilege, and will be immediately incarcerated to complete the sentence while also being tried for the new offense.

The suspension is given: when three quarts of the sentence is served (when the inmate is in third grade); at two thirds of the sentence (when it is the first offence); at half of the sentence (when it is the first offense and the sentence passed is of a maximum of three years).

It is important to note that all the previous resolutions (the classifications, the reviews, the rejection for a short leave, all the decisions of progression) can be appealed, first within the prison and then again before a Judge, which is why the assistance of a solicitor is of paramount importance.

If you or someone close to you is in need of Spanish Legal advice or assistance, please contact our team for a no obligation consultation.