According to the State Administration's Island Director, Javier Tejero, construction work will start almost immediately on Menorca's new prison which will be built on a 15,000 sq.m. plot next to the Guardia Civil headquarters on the Maó to Sant Lluís road. The scale model for the prison has already been prepared for the presentation of the project which will probably be during this month. Work on preparing the land is due to start very shortly and will be carried out by a temporary coalition of companies, one from the island and the other from outside. The original design has been modified so that the finished product is more suitable for the island, but the prison will still have 92 cells and 34 complementary cells.
Transfer of prisoners
Once construction is completed and the prison is open, 60 Menorcan prisoners, currently serving their sentences in Palma, could be transferred here. This would make life a lot easier for their families when it comes to prison visits. Although grants are given to family members visiting inmates in Palma, these do not cover the total cost of the trip, meaning that many families cannot afford to visit more than twice per year, as the majority of prisoners come from low-income families, according to a spokesperson for the Pastoral Penitenciaria, Isabel Serra. She added that the families have a hard time as, in a society such as the Menorcan one, they also have to hide the truth to avoid people's comments.
Serra explained that there is a dependent unit on the island; a flat, where third-degree prisoners can complete their rehabilitation. Work is currently being carried out on the flat and at present only one prisoner is in residence but there will shortly be room for up to ten people.
These are people who work during the day and spend the night in the unit. They spend weekends and public holidays with their families and, every fortnight, have to go to Palma for controls. The unit will continue to function once the Menorcan prison is open, as Serra explains that "there are always prisoners who need closer vigilance during their rehabilitation and this is the reason for the dependent unit".
Despite some public opposition to the construction of a prison in Menorca, the feeling being that there is no need for such a prison on a small island, the spokesperson for Pastoral Penitenciaria believes it to be a good idea, partly to avoid the need for families to travel off the island to visit inmates, and partly as a deterrent which may make people think twice before committing a crime.
The Pastoral Penitenciaria often ends up acting as a link between prisoners and their families, especially when visiting is difficult. Members of the Pastoral travel to Palma prison every two or three months to talk to the inmates. They are also responsible for keeping the dependent unit going, the flat being the property of the Church, and for employing a social worker and night watchman. Work and expenses which are not fully covered by subsidies, leaving the Pastoral in the red.
Isabel Serra explained that they had asked the Menorcan and Balearic authorities for aid, but that it was insufficient. She believes that in many cases not enough importance is given to the fact that Menorca is an island and the resulting isolation.