Political prisoners and prisoner categories

Level two has mechanisms in place for inmates to be granted leave without waiting for permits

This Wednesday, the prison boards belonging to Lledoners, Mas d'Enric and Puig de les Basses prisons recommended that the nine Catalan political prisoners ought to be classified as level two [comparable to a category C prisoner in the UK], meaning that for the time being they will not be eligible for home visits. According to Amand Calderó, the Director of Penitentiary Services, it was not a unanimous decision in relation to any of the inmates. This means that the boards were debating between levels two and three, in which the latter is an open prison which only requires inmates to return on weeknights. The final decision ultimately rests with Catalonia’s Justice Department which will have to decide whether it agrees with the boards’ recommendations, which is what happens in 95% of cases.

Given the injustice of having to spend time in prison due to the Supreme Court’s overly-rigid interpretation of the law, the decision has sparked a debate as to whether the political prisoners ought to be automatically classed as level 3, a position defended by JxCat. It is clear that they all meet the requirements (not dangerous, stable family background, employed, and so on) those assigned to an open prison need to meet, except for the duration of their sentences. Nevertheless, it is not clear that in the event that they had been categorised as level-three prisoners the decision would automatically have been challenged by the Prosecutor's Office, and the case would have ended before the court which tried them, in other words, the Supreme Court, who would have had the final say.

It is precisely because of the exceptional nature of this case that it is so important that everyone acts with the utmost restraint and in a scrupulously professional manner, since it is of vital importance that the prisoners’ rights are protected. One can only imagine that the prison officials who opted for level two were acting with this principle in mind. At least the Madrid-based media, which for the last two years have been reporting on the alleged privileges enjoyed by the Catalan political prisoners, have nothing to complain about, since they were convinced they would be classified as level three prisoners. In spite of the outrage the decision will trigger, it is more than likely that the prisoners themselves wish to be given the same treatment as everyone else.

As level two prisoners, the Jordis [grassroots activists Jordi Sànchez and Jordi Cuixart] will be eligible to apply for home leave from 14 January 2020, when they will have served a quarter of their sentence. In Quim Forn’s case he will be eligible after 16 June; Josep Rull, on 2 October; Oriol Junqueras, on 30 January 2021; Carme Forcadell, on 2 February 2021, and Dolors Bassa, Raül Romeva, and Jordi Turull, on 16 February 2021 (the latter four won’t be eligible until later since they spent three months less on remand).

Nevertheless, receiving the same conditions does not mean being treated worse. There are mechanisms in place whereby Level two convicts may be let out on temporary leave before they are entitled to ask for permits or to be downgraded to the third level. This is in accordance with articles 100.2 and 117, which state that prisoners may be allowed out to engage in certain types of employment or voluntary work. As soon as the criteria are met, the prison authorities ought to naturally consider taking a more flexible approach. What wouldn’t make sense, according to Jordi Cuixart, is for pro-independence supporters to waste time on pointless arguments and the exchange of reproaches concerning the categories that the prisoners have been assigned.

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