Catalan prisons return to normal after 3-day blockade 

Prison workers to demonstrate for the removal of Catalan justice minister on Wednesday

Staff from Quatre Camins prison protest at the prison gates
Staff from Quatre Camins prison protest at the prison gates / La Roca del Vallès

ACN | @agenciaacn | Barcelona

March 19, 2024 02:46 PM

March 19, 2024 09:02 PM

After three days of blockades of Catalan jails by workers, prisons resumed normal operations on Tuesday morning, according to sources from the Catalan Justice Department. 

The protests broke out on Friday after a prison cook was killed by an inmate in Mas d’Enric prison on Wednesday.

During the protests, prison workers have been demanding more staff and security in Catalan prisons, as well as the removal of the Catalan Justice Minister, Gemma Ubasart, who has refused to step down, instead announcing an immediate increase in security for staff at the Center for Reintegration Initiatives (CIRE) in Catalan prisons on Monday.

New protests expected on Wednesday

On Wednesday, prison workers will gather in front of the office of the Presidency of the Catalan Government on Plaça Sant Jaume to pressure the Catalan Minister of Justice and the Secretary of penal measures, Amand Calderó, to resign.

“We don’t want outstretched bloodstained hands,” said the prison workers’ spokespeople during a press conference on Tuesday.

“The killing is the result of this administration’s politics,” said Sandra, a lawyer and criminologist at the Llendoners prison.

Prison workers block access to Catalan jails

Last week's tragic incident sparked protests across Catalan prisons as workers blocked the entrances to several Catalan prisons on Friday and Saturday, leaving thousands of inmates confined to their cells due to understaffing.

For hours, prisoners were unable to leave their cells, go outdoors, or receive visits from their families and lawyers.

Although protesters lifted the blockades on Saturday night and operations returned to normal on Sunday, workers launched a new wave of protests on Monday.

1,200 prisoners confined on Saturday

Over 1,200 prisoners were kept in their cells in three Catalan prisons on Saturday as hundreds of prison staff blocked access to these facilities.

The Catalan government said it was particularly concerned about a hundred female inmates in Wad Ras who remained in their cells for more than 24 hours.

Only essential services, such as food and medical care, were assured, with no visits, outings, or workshops permitted.

Prison visits spark tensions

On Saturday morning, tension escalated when relatives arrived at the Quatre Camins prison to visit the inmates, especially since weekends are when families typically visit their loved ones.

Although the protesting workers allowed the relatives to enter the facilities, the visits were not guaranteed due to the lack of staff at the facility.

The director of Quatre Camins appeared to address the situation, but the protesters turned their backs on him and demanded his resignation.

Inmate kills prison employee

On Wednesday, a woman who worked as a cook at the Mas d'Enric prison in the Tarragona region was fatally stabbed by an inmate, who later died by suicide.

Sources from the prison workers’ union told the Catalan News Agency (ACN) that the prisoner had recently been removed from kitchen duty because of aggression but had been allowed to return.

Other sources told ACN that the inmate was an authoritarian and that he shouldn’t have been allowed back in the kitchen.

The inmate was serving an eleven-year sentence, due to end in April 2027, for stabbing a woman to death in 2016.