Fewer convicts die of AIDS

8th May 2008, Comments 0 comments

In the last eight years, fewer prisoners have died of AIDS although the death toll of prisoners remains high.

8 May 2008

BARCELONA - Prison kills. In the last eight years, 529 convicts have died in Catalan prisons.

Albert Batlle, head of the regional government's Penitentiary Services department, points out that, from 2000 to 2007, Catalan prisons saw 105,091 prisoners pass through their doors. This works out to a rather low death rate of 0.503 percent of the total.

But not everyone sees it this way.

"Death is the most drastic, irreversible consequence of the violation of the human rights of prisoners," according to a study sponsored by the Penal and Human Rights Observatory of the University of Barcelona. Its director, Iñaki Rivera, considers that 529 deaths in eight years is an unacceptable figure.

The death of prisoners "is a doubly invisible reality: on the one hand, the administration does not publish the true dimensions of the thing, and on the other, public opinion is unaware of it," the study says.

According to the Interior Ministry, 1,250 people died in prisons throughout Spain from 2000 to 2006.

In Catalonia, the figure of 529, if compared with previous periods, shows a clear reduction.

In the 1990s, when the prison population was about half what it is now, the death total was 976, of whom 895 died of AIDS. This disease then raged in the prisons, where conditions are prone to contagion.

But in the last eight years, the number of AIDS deaths has fallen to 80, while 309 died of unrelated diseases.

Drug overdoses

In the 1990s, 63 prisoners died of drug overdoses, and in the last eight years, 66. For more than a decade there has been discussion of the need to supply clean syringes in the prisons. But solid opposition from prison staff quashed the proposal under the previous regional government, and the new one has not attempted to revive it.

The remainder of prison deaths are due to various causes. Suicides totalled 27 in the 1990s, rising to 53 in the last eight years. The regional Ombudsman has "repeatedly" asked the prison authorities for more information about the circumstances of prison suicides.

Of the total deaths, 173 occurred in hospital, 141 in the prison itself, 89 in the home of the prisoner's family, and 59 while free on parole. The law allows for release of a prisoner suffering from a terminal disease. Another 50 died in refuges or health centres, and a final 20 in "very diverse" circumstances.

[El Pais / Pere Rios / Expatica]

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