Politics 24/03/2021

The lessons that Forcadell has learned from prisoners

Jordi Ribalaygue
3 min
The former president of the Parliament Carme Horca dell yesterday before arriving at the National Archive of Catalonia

BarcelonaCarme Forcadell feels that she has learned from the "strength" of the inmates with whom she has been living since serving 11 and a half years in prison. "I always say that I am a survivor, but really they are the survivors. They have had a very hard life. Many people have come to see us in prison, but often no one comes to see them", stresses the former President of the Parliament, who yesterday handed over 46 boxes to the Arxiu Nacional de Catalunya (National Archive of Catalonia) with thousands of letters received since she was imprisoned.

While she waits for the revocation of the semi-liberty granted to her by the open prison regime, Forcadell is trying to ensure that the hardships and desires of female prisoners are not hidden inside the cells by publishing Escrivim el futur amb tinta lila (Destino), an essay of feminist reaffirmation that goes on sale today in which she denounces the weaknesses of the penitentiary system to free the women who have been marginalised from it since they were children. The reflections of the pro-independence leader after serving four prison sentences exude a severe scepticism with the redemptive capacity of prisons, for which her party, ERC, has been responsible in Catalonia since 2016.

Carme Forcadell with all the letters she has received since she is in prison, in the National Archive of Catalonia

"Do they serve to reintegrate women prisoners into society and give them a life like other women? I don't think so", she said in a meeting with journalists. Forcadell said she was affected by the fact that some prisoners had confessed to her that they were afraid of regaining their freedom. "If they got out and went to where they lived to depend on the same people, they were afraid of going back to crime. And I have seen more than two or three of them coming back. The worst thing is that when they get out, they have no work and no means to survive", she stated.

Male chauvinist prisons

Forcadell says there is a whiff of machismo in Catalan prisons, where 453 women were serving sentences in 2019, less than 7% of male inmates. "Women go to prisons designed and built for men", she protests. She cites as examples the lack of hairdryers, the fact that football is broadcast on pay-per-view - "They have never asked us if we would like other channels" - and that the best paid jobs in the Mas Enric mixed centre were taken by men. "But, working together, we achieved change. They tell me they don't know what feminism is, but they practice it every day", she says proudly.

'Escrivim el futur amb tinta lila', the book by Carme Forcadell (Destino)

At 65, the former president of the Parliament is the oldest inmate in Wad Ras prison. Whether it is because of seniority or notoriety, her fellow inmates have confided to her their experiences at the foot of the abyss. "They have been harassed, humiliated, mistreated, some of them raped and most of them have suffered male violence. They have had no tools to fight against their destiny", says Forcadell. "One girl told me that she was grateful in prison. She thought that if she hadn't gone in, she would be dead. It had allowed her to give up drugs and get her school-leaving certificate. On the other hand, another one didn't want to get out. Her whole life had been harder than in there", he reveals. She asks the future justice minister for "open prisons" to encourage reintegration.