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Spain Seeks Penal Reforms

July 12, 1999

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ Spain’s leading judicial body called Monday for changes in the penal code to reduce the number of inmates in Spanish prisons.

The proposals approved by the General Council of the Spanish Judiciary would decriminalize some offenses, council spokesman Agustin Zurita said.

Under the reforms, minor cases of drug possession would be redefined so offenders could be rehabilitated rather than imprisoned, Zurita said. Penalties for other crimes, including driving without insurance, also could be reduced to fines instead of jail time.

The proposals follow a council study that shows Spain’s penitentiary system is close to collapsing because of the increased number of inmates and the shortfall in prison workers, Zurita said.

The number of prisoners has doubled to nearly 44,500 in just over a decade, according to the Interior Ministry. It said it was unable to provide a figure for Spain’s prison capacity.

The council report will be presented to parliament in the coming days.

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