Open prison

Placing the Catalan political prisoners under a more lax prison regime falls well within the law, but fails to quench some people’s thirst for revenge

Last weekend the Catalan political prisoners began to enjoy their newly-acquired level 3 status. In Catalonia many have welcomed the news with joy. In Spain, many have felt humiliated. It is the prelude of a likely courtroom battle. Justice Marchena has the last word on whether the Catalan prisoners get to stay in an open prison system and we have begun to see mounting pressure for their status to be revoked.

What arguments are being put forward? The whole process that led to granting level 3 to the jailed Catalan leaders was impeccable and those who seek to have it suspended are, in theory, great fans of procedure: they never miss a chance to point out that they always play it by the rules.

So, even though they were upgraded to level 3 in accordance with the law, the decision fails to quench some people’s thirst for revenge. Therefore, they will argue that the prisoners have shown no regret and only inmates who have expressed remorse for their crimes are eligible for that sort of benefit. The Catalan prisoners have not shown regret because they are still pursuing Catalan independence.

Resorting to that sort of argument is dangerously revealing: if they must recant their views, then we must conclude that they were convicted for their views. If so, then the goal behind their prison sentence —besides being a form of punishment and retribution— is to change their political views. Authoritarian regimes have a word for that: it’s called reeducation.

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