PIDECO, a pioneering prison intervention programme for the reintegration of economic offenders

Criminalité économique

PIDECO is a prison intervention programme focused on the reinsertion and re-education of economic delinquents in Spanish prisons, created as a pioneer in the world and which, although with deficiencies and criticisms, presents a step forward for these criminal modalities, guaranteeing rights and generating obligations for the State. 

Economic crime is present in our society from different perspectives and with the increase in the number of convicted criminals - especially those sentenced to prison - in recent years, their social reintegration could not be forgotten. Spain has pioneered the creation of PIDECO, a programme of Intervention in Economic Crimes aimed at seeking the reintegration of those convicted of these crimes, which has been put into operation in Spanish prisons by the General Secretariat of Penitentiary Institutions dependent on the Ministry of the Interior this year, except for Catalan prisons, as the Generalitat has its own penitentiary system.

After closing the year 2020 with a total of 47,374 prisoners in Spanish prisons, it is relevant to note that 5.6% corresponds to prisoners who can participate in this programme, which means about 2,050 people1. Although these figures may seem insufficient to justify the need for it, in the last 10 years, the number of convictions for economic crime under Criminal Law has tripled, obliging Penitentiary Institutions to respond to the problem, as guarantor of the rights of inmates and in compliance with the constitutional duty of reinsertion and re-education and Article 59 of the General Penitentiary Organic Law.

Delitos económicos

This new programme, which focuses on almost 6% of the prison population, is in addition to the approximately twenty-three specific reintegration programmes currently in operation for specific types of crime.

The reasons for the need are clear, however, it presents a priori flaws that may cause its effectiveness to be minimal. The objective is to re-educate the economic delinquent and to work on the situations and personal factors that make it easier for him to commit crime, as well as to learn to approach his life in freedom with a prosocial attitude. But what does the programme understand by economic delinquency?

Well, all those types of crime within "crimes against property and against the socio-economic order" omitting theft, robbery or extortion, "crimes against public finances and social security", "crimes against workers' rights", "crimes against the rights of foreign citizens" and "crimes against town and country planning, the protection of property and the environment"2

Delitos económicos

It is from this enumeration that the first criticism that can be made arises, because while in the first types the presence of an economic character is clear, it is impossible to find in those called "workers' rights" or "foreign citizens' rights", since they have nothing to do with economic precepts, the subjects do not respond to the patterns of economic offenders and the motivations are different. No matter how much of an economic nature the crimes take on, they will never coincide with the intrinsic nature of economic crimes. With regard to crimes against land use and urban planning, it is more feasible to observe this character, eliminating those thefts and robberies that exclude a conventional offender profile, focusing more on a more specific category than on economic crimes in general. 

The second disadvantage is the characteristics of the subjects on which it is based. A bias can be seen in that while the term economic offenders is retained, the programme is developed under the figure of the white-collar offender. The field study was carried out by comparing the responses of 28 prisoners convicted of economic crimes with an average age of 52 years, with those of 23 people at liberty with managerial responsibility in companies and 27 prisoners convicted of other crimes. The comparison only with managers and not with any other person with the possibility of committing economic crime points to white-collar crime, where the employment status serves as a springboard for committing crime, which is impossible from any other position. Although the differences between the three groups were smaller than expected, it should be noted that specific traits of narcissism, egocentrism, leadership, lack of humility, empathy, as well as responsibility for one's own criminal behaviour and the system of values that will be worked on during the programme appeared.

PIDECO thus responds, it is argued, to a need for insertion that for years has not existed for those types of white-collar crime, arguing that they did not need reintegration, however, legal compliance and specific characteristics have banished these assertions, which have consequently triggered the programme to focus in particular on this modality.

Delitos económicos

What do they need to participate?

As I have already pointed out, to be convicted of one of the categories described above, to have less than two years remaining on the sentence and to accept responsibility for the offence. This programme will not generate automatic or assessed prison benefits, although it will be taken into account when granting permits and changes of grade. After the programme, it is expected that the subjects will apologise for the damage caused, repair the damage within their possibilities and effectively modify their behaviour and social perception, so that they do not reoffend after serving their sentence. 

Delitos económicos

How can this be achieved?

With a minimum of 32 group and individual sessions, divided into seven therapeutic units and a final one of restorative justice to be carried out in about ten or eleven months with a weekly session of approximately three hours, given by a total of forty psychologists specially trained for this purpose. During these sessions, work will be done on motivation for voluntary participation, identity and self-esteem, social skills, responsibility and the system of values, forgiveness, reparation of damage, reintegration and acceptance of the stigmatisation that will come with leaving prison in a society that is increasingly intolerant of these crimes3. This programme was launched at the beginning of the year, so the first results are not expected until the end of the year for a total of 68 inmates from 31 prisons and nine CIS.

Dólar Bolsa

In conclusion...

With the creation of the programme, progress is being made in terms of rights, but there is no programme worldwide on which to base the current proposal and we will not be able to begin to see the minimum results until the end of this year and more specifically over time, when they are living in society. 

The programme itself is praiseworthy, as the intentions and concerns are not the least bit problematic, but the equal treatment of different forms of crime, realities, concerns and needs is. Economic crime, although broad, is not a catch-all, nor is it synonymous with white-collar crime, which can lead to problems when assessing its results and development. Bearing in mind the small sample on which to base the intervention programme and certain biases that can be seen, such as the specific nature of the profession of those who are at liberty, it is doubtful a priori whether it will be effective. Only psychologists are in charge, leaving to one side very useful professions for treatment, such as criminologists, complementing knowledge and forming multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary teams, thus guaranteeing a higher quality.

Delitos económicos

Finally, this programme does not appear on the website of penitentiary institutions, although the rest do, branding it as a private programme that does not exist for the rest of the programmes, once again making us think of guaranteeing the anonymity of certain public figures, which in particular occurs under the umbrella of white-collar crime.

Therefore, although there are many criticisms of this programme, in my opinion, there is an urgent need for it and it is an unprecedented advance that will soon begin to bear fruit, which will be perfected over the years, serving as a basis for other programmes and guaranteeing rights to the convicted, helping them to return to freedom.

Alicia Rodríguez Sánchez, Criminologist, Research Staff in Training at the University of Salamanca and Sec2Crime collaborator in the economic crime line.


1 - Instituto Nacional De Estadística (2020). Estadísticas de condenados. Recuperado de: https://www.ine.es/dynt3/inebase/index.htm?padre=3978. 

2- Instituciones penitenciarias (2020). Notas de prensa. Recuperado de https://www.institucionpenitenciaria.es/es/web/home/gabinete-de-prensa/notas-de-prensa?p_p_id=genericseeker_INSTANCE_uXD5z5Xpq9lu&p_p_lifecycle=0&p_p_state=normal&p_p_mode=view&_genericseeker_INSTANCE_uXD5z5Xpq9lu_idNew=684356&_genericseeker_INSTANCE_uXD5z5Xpq9lu_idArticle=0&_genericseeker_INSTANCE_uXD5z5Xpq9lu_idPagination=0&_genericseeker_INSTANCE_uXD5z5Xpq9lu_page=%2Fnew.jsp 

3- Instituciones Penitenciarias pone en marcha un programa de Intervención en delitos económicos (2020,1 diciembre). Actualidad jurídica Tirant lo Blanch. Recuperado de: https://tirant.com/actualidad-juridica/noticia-instituciones-penitenciarias-pone-en-marcha-un-programa-de-intervencion-en-delitos-economicos-2/