A steady run of complaints to the king in the 1580s led to an investigation of convict living conditions at Almadén in 1593. The investigation was conducted by royal commissioner and famous author Mateo Alemán
, and was based largely on convict interviews.
The mine at Almadén provided forzados
with acceptable living conditions. Each convict received daily rations of meat
. Each year, a forzado
was issued a doublet
, one pair of breeches
, two shirts
, one pairs of shoes
, and a hood
. Medical care was available at the infirmary, and the mine even housed its own apothecary
Despite these good offerings, the danger of death or sickness from mercury poisoning
was always present. 24% of convicts at Almadén between 1566 and 1593 died before their release dates, most often because of mercury poisoning. Nearly all prisoners experienced discomfort due to mercury exposure. Common symptoms included severe pains in any part of the body, trembling limbs, and loss of sanity. Most of the men at the furnaces died from poisoning.Forzados
were also forced to bail water out of the mines. These men escaped the dangers of mercury exposure, but suffered exhaustion on a daily basis. A group of four men had to bail out 300 buckets of water without rest. Those that could not meet this quota were whipped. Sick prisoners were not exempt from this practice.
Death was common, and the convicts wished to provide a proper burial for each of the men that died at the mine. A religious confraternity was formed, conducted by a prior who was administrator of the mine for the Fuggers. The prior also chose devout convicts to serve as officials. Mass was held on Sundays and feast days, and non-attendance was punishable by fine.