Prisoner who killed cook had shown 'positive' development, justice minister says 

Gemma Ubasart admits to Parliament that inmate had no external incentives to leave jail 

Catalan Justice Minister, Gemma Ubasart, in Parliament
Catalan Justice Minister, Gemma Ubasart, in Parliament / Mariona Puig
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

March 21, 2024 10:26 AM

March 21, 2024 09:16 PM

The prisoner who killed a cook last week at Mas d'Enric prison had demonstrated a "positive" development during his time in jail, the Catalan justice minister told Parliament on Thursday. His actions could not have been predicted, Gemma Ubasart said.  

The inmate was sanctioned in October, however, for punching another prisoner. He also did not want to participate in psychosocial sessions, because he had no incentive to progress to a more lenient prison regime as he had no family or social network outside jail. 

"[Not taking part in psychosocial activities] doesn’t mean he couldn’t take part in ordinary activities as long as he displayed good behaviour and a low risk of repeating criminal offense," said the minister.


The minister did not specify what happened in the kitchen at the time of the cook's killing, but reaffirmed her will to apply measures to prevent something similar from ever happening again. 

Around 100 prison workers gathered outside Parliament in protest ahead of the minister's appearance.  


Ubasart was joined at the Parliamentary committee by the Secretary of Penal Measures, Amand Calderó, both of whom have faced calls to resign since last week.  

Indeed, at the committee on Thursday, four political parties – Junts, Vox, Ciudadanos and the People's Party – all called for Ubasart to quit.

A minute's silence was observed at the beginning of proceedings and Ubasart again expressed her condolences to the family and colleagues of the victim. 

The minister explained that 3,412 inmates work at prisons, in areas such as industrial workshops, kitchens, bakeries, laundries and shops.  

Some of the inmates have committed very serious crimes. "What is assessed is whether the person presents a low level of risk for reoffending and positive behavior and development in terms of rehabilitation," Ubasart said, adding that, in the 40 years the Catalan government has had powers in penitentiary matters, there had not been a worker killed by an inmate. 

Ubasart recounted the history of the prisoner, who took his own life after killing the cook. In April 16, he stabbed a woman he knew to death and reported himself to police. He was immediately imprisoned in Mas d'Enric. In 2018 he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for murder and was due for release in April 2027. 

In prison, he did not interact much with other inmates, but had no major conflicts, showed good behavior and was "trustworthy." 

His risk of reoffending or violence was low, except in May 2020, at the beginning of the Covid pandemic, when it was raised to medium. 

In October 2023, he punched an inmate, who he said had insulted him, and was sentenced to 11 days of solitary confinement in his cell, which he had not yet served. 

Prison workers urged him to participate in psychosocial sessions, but he did not want to. According to him, he had no social or family support outside the prison, and therefore had little incentive to get prison leave. 

He had been working in the kitchen for four years, except for the last few months of 2023 due to being sanctioned for the punch, and had risen to become head of the group. 

Security measures 

Regarding security measures in prison kitchens, Ubasart explained inmates must pass through metal detectors at the start and the end of their shift. 

Knives and utensils are kept in a cupboard which inmates do not have access to. At the beginning of their shift they collect the utensils they need from staff, and return them at the end. No one can leave the kitchen until all utensils and knives are counted. Throughout the shift, staff are present to perform surveillance duties and ensure a peaceful working environment. 

To improve safety in the kitchens, Ubasart already explained on Tuesday that it will immediately increase the number of surveillance staff, that there will be more kitchen staff so that no worker is ever left alone, and that the emergency systems will be reinforced, with communication devices and panic alarms. 

Protests and talks

On Wednesday, amid protests outside government headquarters in Barcelona, a meeting between six prison union representatives and Catalan Vice President Laura Vilagrà ended without an agreement.

The head of prisons for the UGT union in Catalonia, Núria Nassare, described the meeting as "disappointing," as she explained to media that "a resignation" was expected.