• France's news in English

Prosecutor backs down on prison threat

Matthew Warren · 1 Aug 2011, 09:16

Published: 01 Aug 2011 10:36 GMT+02:00
Updated: 01 Aug 2011 09:16 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

A public prosecutor in Dunkirk who said overcrowding was so bad in the local prison that he wouldn't send anyone there until September has been forced to change his mind.

Philippe Muller, the public prosecutor in the northern town of Dunkirk, told AFP he would not follow through on his threat “on the orders of my superiors.”

Ufap, a prison officers’ union, said there were 157 inmates for 95 places in the Dunkirk jail. A lawyer in the town, Pierre Mougel, told newspaper Libération that one of his clients found himself with eight other inmates “in a 12 square metre cell. A ninth person then arrived who had to sleep on the floor on a mattress.”

France’s prisons have reached crisis point, with a record 64,726 prisoners currently held in prisons designed to hold 56,081 inmates.

The prosecutor’s action prompted Paris-based prison watchdog, the Observatoire international des prisons (OIP), to release a statement on Friday saying “all public prosecutors should follow the example of Dunkirk.”

“Overcrowding has been an issue for years. This initiative should force us to ask ourselves about the relevance of our penal policy,” said the statement.

At the start of July, the level of overcrowding in France’s prisons reached 115 percent, up 14 percent on the same time last year. OIP said 80 percent of jails are overcrowded.

The sudden spike in prison overcrowding is blamed on moves taken after it was discovered that a man accused of the murder of an 18-year old woman in January had been on probation at the time of the attack.

The Laëtitia affair, as it is known in France, prompted the justice minister, Michel Mercier, to instruct judges to enforce sentences more strictly.

According to magazine Nouvel Observateur, the prison population increased by 10 percent in the first three months of 2011 compared to a year earlier.

The Dunkirk prison experienced a similar effect. “From February, we saw the number of arrivals double in Dunkirk,” Annabelle Bouchet, a representative of prison workers’ union Snepap-FSU, told Libération.

The government announced plans in May to build 25 new prisons, taking the available capacity to 70,000 by 2018.


Matthew Warren (news.france@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Jungle shacks set ablaze and torn down as camp razed
All photos: AFP

IN PICTURES: The razing of the Jungle has finally begun.

Frenchwoman finds WW1 grenade among her spuds
Photo: AFP

It could have been a very explosive family dinner.

Refugee crisis
What rights to a future in France for Calais migrants?
Photo: AFP

What does the future hold for the migrants of the Jungle? Can they work or claim social benefits or travel freely inside Europe?

Pampers nappies 'contain carcinogenics': French study
Photo: Robert Valencia/Flick

The substances in the nappies are meant to prevent skin irritation but are cancerous, the study concludes.

France to scrap special prison wings for dangerous jihadists
Photo: AFP

The experiment has been ditched.

Myth busting: Half of French adults are now overweight
A model at the Pulp Fiction fashion show in Paris that represents society's diverse spectrum . Photo: AFP

Hold on, aren't the French all meant to be finely toned specimens with not an ounce of fat on them?

France poised to send bulldozers into Calais Jungle
Photo: AFP

As hundreds of migrants leave, the bulldozers are set to tear down the sprawling Calais shanty town on Tuesday.

UK to spend €40 million on securing Calais border
Photo: AFP

Britain spending big on security in Calais.

Millionaire Riviera hotel boss kidnapped in broad daylight
The city of Nice where the millionaire was bundled into a car infront of shocked onlookers. Photo: AFP

The millionaire head of a luxury hotel in the French Riviera resort of Cannes was kidnapped in Nice in front of shocked onlookers in the middle of the day on Monday.

Where exactly in France are Calais migrants being sent?
Photo: AFP

Here's where the 8,000 migrants in Calais are heading.

The annoying questions only a half French, half Brit can answer
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Forget Brangelina's chateau - here are nine others you've got to see
The must-see French films of the millennium - Part One
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
jobs available