21st June 2024
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Prison staff continue protests in Catalonia after colleague killed

Catalonia saw another day of protests at prisons on Monday, as staff blocked access to jails and prisoners had to remain in their cells. 

The row between prison workers and the Catalan justice department regarding safer working conditions kicked off last Wednesday, after a cook was murdered by an inmate at Mas d’Enric prison. The inmate later took his own life. 

The Catalan justice minister, Gemma Ubasart, has not ruled out sanctioning prison staff who do not go to work while the current protests are ongoing. 

Despite a supposed deal on Sunday, prison workers continued to protest, putting up barricades and burning tyres at the entrances of detention centres to prevent both the entry and exit of officials and prisoners, as well as food and other services.

On Monday morning, the Catalan justice department said that cells were opened at only two prisons – Quatre Camins and Joves, which are on the same site – resulting in 5,500 prisoners being confined to their cells across Catalonia. 

Later in the morning, it was confirmed that the 1,400 prisoners at Catalonia’s biggest prison, Brians 2, had been allowed to leave their cells, leaving around 4,000 inmates confined. 

Ubssart said the ‘situation is serious and worrying’, as ‘the right to protest cannot prevent the functioning of essential services’. She also said that some lawyers have not been able to assist clients, ‘violating the right of defence’.

‘We are in a situation of restrictions that did not even occur in the pandemic,’ said Ubasart, urging unions to return to the negotiating table to resolve the blockade.

Anti-riot police from Catalonia’s Mossos d’Esquadra were sent to some prisons to allow access of goods and staff.

Unions are demanding the resignation of prison directors, Gemma Ubasart and the secretary of Penal Measures Amand Calderó.

The female cook who was killed last Wednesday died from stab wounds caused by a prisoner, who also worked in the jail’s kitchen. 

According to reports, the prisoner had recently been removed from kitchen duty because of aggression but had been allowed to return. The inmate was serving an eleven-year sentence, due to end in April 2027, for stabbing a woman to death in 2016.

The cook’s death led to protests outside the justice department on Thursday, and at prisons on Friday and Saturday. Blockades were eventually lifted on Saturday, but staff warned they would start again on Monday.

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