Picassent, a Mixed Prison Wing

Marie Claire  London, 1994, 2,000 words; adapted extracts  

2/cont. 

"It simply seemed to us that living together was an extension of the idea of an educational wing," explains Jabardo. "We wanted to make life as similar as possible to that on the street. Until prisoners were given sexual rights in the 1979 penal code there were a lot of problems in Spanish prisons - circumstantial rather than freely chosen. There were rapes and abuses of a sexual nature. Now they're hardly found in Spanish prisons. This project is an experiment to see if we can extend that."

Alicia Ruiz / ‘People tend to have an image of prisoners as being uncouth.... They don’t realize prisons are just a reflection of the outside world.’

The women of Modulo 4 are clear about the gap between the prejudices and the reality. "You can imagine what they think," says Maria José, aged 30, who came here after two years in a women's prison, and is three years into a 26-year sentence for double armed robbery.

"Blokes and girls living together, what more do they want? They're not suffering anything."

Fellow prisoner Alicia Ruiz echoes this. "People tend to have an image of prisoners as being uncouth...." She smiles, raises her eyebrows and looks at me questioningly to see my reaction.

"Sometimes, they even think you could be raped or attacked." There is a pause, she shrugs and looks down. "They don't realise prisons are just a reflection of the outside world."

CLOSENESS & PRIVACY

The women say that, as with so much of prison life, the reality of the mixed wing is very different from outsiders' image of it. It’s an indicator that they have chosen to live in rooms more or less grouped together on one floor, largely segregating themselves from the men. This they put down to practical considerations, such as sharing the showers.

"At the beginning, everything's so alien you don't feel like opening up," comments Rosa, aged 33, who has been in Modulo 4 for ten months. ‘You're so terribly alone. Later, what counts is the feeling of being wanted, having someone to share the bad moments with. For example, to have someone here on New Year's Eve who gave me a hug with real feeling ... it wasn't sex and it wasn't even passion ... but it was wonderful."

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