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The state of France’s prisons


    Fresnes prison, France. May 2005. Fresnes prison, France. May 2005.

    Fresnes prison, France. May 2005. Fresnes prison, France. May 2005.

    Photos © Philippe Brault

    France is regularly singled out for criticism due to the dilapidated state of its prisons. The prison suicide rate is higher than the European average. Each year sets a new record for prison crowding. So let’s discuss the subject.

    Dilapidation, brutality, poverty, indignity.. The French general inspector of prisons – an independent watchdog created in 2008 – painted a dismal picture of French prisons in its second report published at the beginning of March 2010. Made all the more dismal by the presenter adding: We have said nothing in this report that is substantially different from what we said a year ago. Progress has been made in all areas, but much still has to be done.

    The state of our prisons: a dramatic rise in the prison population (up by 23.7% between 2000 and 2007 according to a report by the Council of Europe), crowding (125 inmates per 100 beds), problems with rehabilitating offenders (The prison department only allocates a little over 11% of its budget to the social rehabilitation of prisoners according to a report by La Documentation française), a lack of human contact in newer prisons (less wardens, more CCTV), a reduced number of activities on offer to inmates (sport, education, etc.), less working hours, a rise in dead time and boredom. The same causes produce the same effects in many prisons the general inspector prisons visited: Frustration is growing in these prisons and there is a resulting and inevitable increase in prisoners’ aggression [leading to] violence towards themselves and towards others.

    In January 2010, the Ministry of Justice announced the number of prisoners who had committed suicide in 2009: 115.

    There are 194 penal facilities in France, 111 prisons, 77 penal centres, and 6 young offenders institutions.

    Pour en savoir plus

    Find complete statistics about prisons in France in the film Prison Valley.

    Posted by David Dufresne Prison Valley Team
    Apr 7th 2010 (edited Apr 21st 2010)
    To report corrections and clarifications, contact Prison Valley Team

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