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Women behind bars: Spain tops EU table

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A female prisoner sings during the traditional procession of "Jesus en la Columna" at the Picasent jail in Valencia (2006). Photo: José Jordan/AFP
12:47 CEST+02:00
Spain has seen its female prison population grow tenfold over the last 30 years, making it the country in Europe with the highest rate of women behind bars.

Back in 1983, only 480 women were serving time in Spanish prisons.

The figure currently stands at 5,117, twice the rate of neighbouring France.

They still only make up 7. 6 percent of Spain’s total prison population, but female inmate rates across the continent and worldwide are somewhat lower, with 5.3 and 6 percent respectively.

Drugs are the number one cause for their imprisonment, with one in two women serving sentences for minor trafficking crimes.

Many of the women in Spanish prisons are foreigners who worked as drug mules, most of whom were arrested at airports in Spain.

“(Women) are hardly ever behind violent crimes involving unknown victims,” Margarita Aguilera, lawyer for female prisoners body ACOPE, told 20 minutos about the lack of female psychopaths.

“(Violent) crimes perpetrated by women are a result of abuse towards them in their own families.”

In fact, a study by Spain’s social studies institute CIS highlighted that 88 percent of female prisoners have been the victims of sexual abuse.

Spain’s former prisons director, Mercedes Gallizo, named “men and drugs” as the two underlying reasons for female incarceration, the latter often used to ease the pain of their suffering.

There are exceptions however, as in the case of the prostitute who poisoned a client who didn’t pay her or the woman jailed for abandoning her baby in a forest.

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The typical prison profile of female Spanish nationals is that of “a drug addict with numerous repeat offenses”, Aguilera added.

The trend of foreign drug mules arrested in Spain has seen a drop in recent years, the ACOPE lawyer explains, and been replaced by women committing petty crimes as a direct result of their hardship during the country’s economic crisis.

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