Prison staff protests spread throughout Spain

Prison staff protest gathers momentum

Stock image of a prison cell. Credit: fongbeerredhot/

The brutal murder of a prison worker in Tarragona on March 13 has ignited widespread protests across Spain, calling for enhanced security measures.

Nuria Lopez, a cook at the Tarragona facility, lost her life to Iulian O., a convict previously sentenced to 11 years for stabbing another woman. The prisoner has been allowed to help in the kitchen and had access to knives.

The incident initially sparked action in Catalonia but now Aranjuez, Madrid; Archidona, Malaga and Albocaser, Castellon have joined forces.

Other prisons affected are Picassent, Valencia; Murcia; Soto del Real, Madrid; Fontnivel, Alicante and Moron de la Frontera, Sevilla.

Urgent calls for increased security

The uproar isn’t about financial compensation. Instead, prison staff across Spain are united in their plea for safer working conditions. Despite varying administrative powers, no region treats prison officials as authority figures, a stark contrast to practices in countries like France.

A troubling trend of assaults

The statistics are alarming. Spain saw a record 508 assaults on prison staff in 2023, up 12 per cent from the previous year. This escalation continues despite a decrease in the prison population.

‘We are the group with the most attacks in the General State Administration (AGE) with 508 a year. That means a prison officer is assaulted every 16 hours. And that is counting only the attacks that the General Secretariat wants.

‘They are statistics cooked to their liking, which leave many of these attacks unaccounted for,’ Manuel Galisteo, president of the union Tu Abandono Me Podemos Matar (TAMPM), highlights the dire situation.

Resistance amidst calls for reform

The tragedy has unified prison staff, but their protests face criticism and legal challenges, underscoring a need for urgent reform. ‘The murder of the companion is a red line that should never have been crossed,’ added Galisteo.

With growing unrest and the increasing incidence of assaults, Spain’s prison officials are at a breaking point, demanding recognition and protection to ensure their safety and that of their charges.

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Written by

John Ensor

Originally from Doncaster, Yorkshire, John now lives in Galicia, Northern Spain with his wife Nina. He is passionate about news, music, cycling and animals.