The Council of State, an advisory body to the government, has just told Justice Minister Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón that the concept of “revisable permanent imprisonment,” which he aims to introduce into the Penal Code, has a strong whiff of populism about it.
The Council considers that the concept is being brought forward more in response to the alarmist clamor being heard in society following certain crimes, than to the principles that govern modern penal law; and that it is, moreover, a measure that is largely redundant, coming as it does on top of the already toughened scale of prison sentences, which stretch to 40 years, that has been in effect since 2003.
This report follows two others previously issued by the CGPJ legal watchdog and the Prosecutors’ Council, both of which consider that the change is unconvincing in terms of justification, and possibly unconstitutional, as it is extremely restrictive in terms of the possibility of rehabilitation.
A prudent and sensible government should never be oblivious to the — preceptive though non-binding — judgments of the consultative bodies of the state. And it should think twice before pushing through a measure that these two bodies consider to be lacking justification and may even be unconstitutional.
We can only hope, then, that the minister will opt for prudence and be sensible with his decision on the so-called “revisable permanent imprisonment” — a euphemism for life imprisonment — that the Popular Party is bent on introducing into the Penal Code.
Revisable permanent imprisonment is part of a package of measures included in the latest of the innumerable reforms to the Penal Code since it entered into effect in 1995 that shows the obsessive tendency of several successive governments — of both major political parties — to resolve by means of legislation what they have been unable to solve by their action of government.
It is true that the Council of State has not actually opined negatively on the constitutionality of revisable permanent imprisonment. But this is no reason not to point out that we are looking at a superfluous, unnecessary measure, in favor of which the government is offering no arguments of a penal nature that would justify it.
This absence of practical justification is what underlines the eminently ideological motivation of the measure. This has also been the case with other announced legislative initiatives, in particular the restrictive reform of the abortion law, including the proposal to eliminate congenital malformation of the fetus as a justification for abortion — which is aimed more at the satisfaction of extreme sectors of the PP than at the desires of Spanish society as a whole.
Revisable permanent imprisonment reflects an authoritarian conception of penal law, which may tend to confuse justice with vengeance.