Picassent, a Mixed Prison Wing

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


Both the authorities and the prisoners generally play down the importance of mixed living. "It's the privacy here that's the luxury," says Maria José. "To have your own cell so that you're left alone when the door is locked at 10pm is the best thing of all.... It's that as well as less noise, being better treated by the warders and being a mixed group that makes this ward less tense than others."

‘It was a real shock when I got up on my first day and saw a man shaving,’ comments María José.

Nonetheless, the day-to-day realities of a mixed wing are clearly very different to those of a single-sex one.

"It was a real shock when I got up on my first day and saw a man shaving," comments Maria José. "It takes a few months to get used to living together."

The men say they are the ones who find it hardest to adapt, especially those who have arrived after a long stretch in a high-security prison.

"For eight years I'd only seen women at a distance," comments Chema, 26, who came from a Galician male prison. "You know, the occasional social worker or doctor. And I hardly ever spoke to one so I'd completely lost the knack of how to behave with women. It took me months and I adapted quickly compared to most men, because I'd lived with a girlfriend. I've seen it cost some men a huge effort."

"Of course the girls attract you a lot physically when you haven't made love for a long time," explains Julio, aged 33, who had spent thirteen years in male prisons by the time he came here. "You want to make a good impact. But you don't know what to say or do. You feel insecure, try to please, get nervous."


As the number of women in Modulo 4 has risen, so relationships have blossomed. One couple have married. Around half the women currently in the wing have boyfriends there. Maria José, married but separated, has been with Enrique for over a year. She says it hasn't been easy.

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