Picassent, a Mixed Prison Wing

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


"Obviously, it was easier for the relationship to start here than if we'd been in different wings. But on the other hand, putting up with someone every day from 8am till bedtime is very demanding. You quickly see the worst as well as the best of someone. There are none of the usual escape routes, like going out to work...."

Others emphasize they donít think the wingís success is necessarily because it is mixed. They reckon itís as much that all the inmates are studying....

"There's so little intimacy here that the people who form couples are pretty discreet," says Alicia. "They don't want you involved and you want to close your own eyes and ears too."

Although prisoners can visit each other freely during free time, sex is forbidden in cells. Inmates have the same rights that all Spanish prisoners now hold: one three-hour stretch of intimacy a month, to be taken with family and friends or with a sexual partner. For the latter, they need to book a 'vis-a-vis' similar to a plain hotel suite with a double bed, sofa and bathroom. Bookings are tricky. In Picassent, for example, seven vis-a-vis have to be shared between over a thousand prisoners and their partners, whether fellow prisoners or visitors.

The system of booking a room for sex doesn't help, say the women. "It's so cold," comments Rosa.... "I think a man's more instinctive, but for a woman to make love on such a day, at such a time, in such a place - it's difficult to enjoy it.... the magic often comes just at the end of the time."

Many of the women say they are lonely, but they are adamant they wouldn't want their children with them in Modulo 4 or consider transfer to a mother-and-child wing.


"There's a lot of negative energy in prisons," says Maria Josť, who has two children from her marriage. "And it's impossible for kids not to pick it up."

Others emphasise that they don't think the wing's success is necessarily because it is mixed. They reckon itís as much that all the inmates are studying, not so much with a view to getting an agricultural job as to ticking over and remaining work-friendly.

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