The Ombudsman visited 72 places of deprivation of liberty in 2021 and issued 899 rulings

The Ombudsman visited 72 places of deprivation of liberty in 2021 and issued 899 rulings


The Ombudsman institution has registered in Congress and in the Senate the 2021 annual report that it carries out in its capacity as the National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (NPM). Last year, 72 places of deprivation of liberty were visited and 7 non-face-to-face actions were carried out, resulting in 899 resolutions addressed to different administrations. There were also 255 recommendations, 618 suggestions and 26 reminders of legal duties.

Police Stations and Command Centres

Last year, 34 short-term places of deprivation of liberty were inspected: 13 police stations and other custody areas of the National Police, 12 Civil Guard stations and posts, one regional police station, five local police lockups and three custody rooms in judicial headquarters.

The Ombudsman is concerned that the facilities have the maximum-security conditions and that they lack structural elements that could pose a risk to the physical integrity of the detainees. In this context, he made a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Security to improve the security of the 15 lockups located in the police station of the National Police Corps in Algeciras (Cádiz), where two detainees committed suicide by hanging in 2020.

The NPM also examines whether lawyers have access to detainees in private and at any time and looks in particular at the conditions under which juveniles are deprived of their liberty. On this last issue and following a visit to the Ertzaintza police station in Bilbao, he made a recommendation to draw up a protocol for police action in the area of this autonomous police force that guarantees specific regulations for all types of police intervention with minors.

Centres for foreigners

In 2021, the Ombudsman made a recommendation to the General Directorate of the Police to issue an instruction including a protocol for handling complaints and allegations of ill-treatment of inmates in centres for foreigners.

It also recommended that data such as the age of foreigners entering these facilities, the length of stay and the identity of applicants for international protection be provided


In 2021, 28 places of long-term deprivation were visited: 17 penitentiary centres, 1 penitentiary psychiatric hospital, 7 centres for juvenile offenders and 3 units dedicated to care for people with mental health problems.

As regards prisons, the health emergency caused by Covid-19 continued to affect their activity, although vaccination of inmates and prison staff was generalised.

The NPM visited for the first time the penitentiary centres of Algeciras (Cádiz), Huelva, Joves de Barcelona and Seville I. The rest were follow-up visits (Seville II Penitentiary Centre, Puerto I -Cádiz-, Ávila, Segovia, Castellón I, Menorca, Brians I -Barcelona-, Albolote -Granada- and León). In addition, non-presence actions were carried out in the Madrid II, III, V, VI, VII and Castellón II centres.

The Ombudsman institution considers it necessary to make further progress in reducing the use of coercive means through the use of alternative measures.

With regard to mental health and suicide prevention, he has detected progress in the centres under the responsibility of the General Secretariat of Penitentiary Institutions and stresses that there is room for improvement in the penitentiary centres of Catalonia. As far as prison healthcare is concerned, there are shortcomings in the conditions in which healthcare staff work and there is still a shortage of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.

In 2021, the NPM visited five detention centres for juvenile offenders (CIMI): El Molino (Almería), the Centro de Educación e Internamiento por Medida Judicial in Zaragoza, the Centro Educativo Arratia (Bizkaia), the CIMI Teresa de Calcuta (Madrid) and the CIMI Ciudad de Melilla.

Following the recommendation made by the Ombudsman to abolish mechanical restraints in CIMI, which resulted in 2021 in a regulatory change prohibiting these practices, the NPM has paid particular attention in its visits to checking whether these means of restraint have been eradicated.

The inspections also looked closely at suicide prevention protocols, the completion of injury reports and the reception and admission processes for minors. In addition, suggestions were made after detecting flaws in the facilities and structural deficiencies in the centres.

Lack of psychologists

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a specific effect on mental health. In 2021, the NPM carried out two visits to establishments where people with mental health problems are cared for: Sanatorio Esquerdo (Madrid) and Conxo Psychiatric Hospital (Santiago de Compostela).

The NPM has drawn attention to the shortage of psychology professionals in the centres visited and the over-medication of some patients and the general need to improve the medical care of inmates.

Visits with cross-cutting approaches

The Ombudsman institution has launched two programmes to focus on preventing discrimination against the situation of certain persons deprived of their liberty. Thus, in 2018 it started one aimed at preventing gender discrimination in prisons, and in 2021 it has been extended to juvenile and mental health centres. In addition, a new project has been launched in 2022 to analyse the treatment of inmates with intellectual disabilities.

Moreover, in 2021, the NPM supervised six foreign repatriation operations in which the repatriation of 306 persons was monitored.

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