The observatory


The Observatory of the Penal System and Human Rights (OSPDH) of the University of Barcelona is a Research Centre, created in May 2001. It is made up of university professors from the UB and other national, European and Latin American universities, as well as professionals from institutions and organizations for the defence of human rights, postgraduate and PhD students, and activists who work in the fight for the promotion of basic rights and legal guarantees.

Today's societies are deeply affected by policies, to a great extent, surrendered to the dictates of a savage capitalism that devalues ​​fundamental rights in an extremely worrying way. The political-cultural hegemony of the lex mercatoria that decree or condition the production of public policies and the production of law itself, affects, among other areas, the penal system and its institutions, and the securitarian way of surveillance and control by the States.

In fact, the socio-economic order of contemporary capitalist globalization is calling into question the advances made in Western countries by the cultures of human rights and democracy (representative of the post-Second World War period). The well-known rule of law State-form has in recent decades undergone a progressive conversion into a legal-guardian state of a bipolar nature, presenting criminal and security policies that are increasingly intolerant in front of “bagatella” offenses, but at the same time, increasingly tolerant regarding the exploitation and business of great economic powers. Under the mask of legality, inequalities increase, the prison and extra-prison panopticon widens, new walls (architectural and symbolic) are erected to delimit exclusion, repression and control grow and new clandestine economic and social powers act.

Likewise, the criminalization of freedom of expression, artistic production, political dissidence and of those who struggle to maintain minimum conditions of dignity (in the fields of housing, food, health and other basic rights), ends drawing a repressive framework that must be investigated, while resisted.

The OSPDH, as the Research Centre of the UB, configures a field of study and research of the so-called Sociology of criminal control that, as an expression of a global critical criminology, examines the production of contemporary crime and also the social harm caused by political-economic structures that provokes structural violence. In this sense, this area of ​​knowledge, heir to the first Critical Criminology (configured in Europe and Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s), update and renew its objects of study and its paths of transformation, phenomena that, even under the guise of legality, produce very serious violations of people's fundamental rights. For this reason, this Sociology of criminal control, this global critical criminology, claims an area of ​​its own knowledge, emancipated from dependence and hegemony in which it has tried to be situated by other professional and academic knowledge that, in Spain (unlike others more plural and more democratic cultural contexts), have not allowed its full development.

In this context, and for twenty years, the OSPDH has focused its gaze, its research and its political-cultural production, on phenomena such as: the configuration of the penal system (and its police, judicial and penitentiary subsystems), research, documentation and denunciation of institutional violence and torture, internment and expulsion of foreigners, gender violence, municipal ordinances of surveillance and public order, "zero tolerance" policies, the construction of the so-called "Europe fortitude ”, the so-called “criminal law of the enemy” and those structures that produce serious social harm when, often covered by the facade of legal businesses, impoverish society with their activities of dispossession of homes, or by the production and export of weapons, the exploitation and destruction of the environment, the lack of protection of health. the precariousness of socio-labor life, among other violations of rights or basic needs.

The OSPDH seeks to provide tools so that the people affected by the indicated deficiencies and the social organizations committed to that situation, develop more power and social capital and have the necessary instruments in this fight for rights. Achieving that every human being, regardless of their sex, ethnicity, religion, ideology, social class and nationality, is recognized and respected as a person with rights requires that people be truly autonomous, independent and free from all forms of power (economic, political, academic, patriarchal) and, very especially, towards the State and the penal system.