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.

"/> 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.

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Prosecutor backs down on prison threat

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.

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Prisons blocked across France after guards attacked by ‘radicalised’ inmate

Protesting prison guards blocked jails across France on Wednesday morning after two officers were left seriously wounded in an attack by a "radicalised" inmate. It's not the first time staff have been targeted by jihadist inmates.

Prisons blocked across France after guards attacked by 'radicalised' inmate
French prison guards protest after a previous attack by a radicalised inmate. Photo: AFP

Around 20 prisons were blocked across the country on Wednesday morning after unions representing guards called for action.

Protesting prison guards set fire to tyres and built barricades in front of the entrances to the establishments.

They vowed the no staff or visitors would gain access to the prisons as they protested to raise the alarm at the dangers they face on daily basis due to the number of radicalised prisoners.

“Colleagues want to go to work but we do not abandon them, we do not send them to die,” a local union leader at the Fleury-Merogis prison outside Paris, Thibault Capelle, told AFP.


The action follows Tuesday's incident when a “radicalised” inmate at a prison in northwest France seriously wounded two guards in a knife attack. 

He was later shot and injured in a police raid that also left his visiting partner fatally wounded.

Prisoner Michael Chiolo and his female partner had been holed up in the family-visiting area of the modern, high-security prison at Conde-sur-Sarthe 
in Normandy when police moved in and detained them, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said on Twitter.

Both were shot and wounded in the operation and “the woman died” of her injuries, a source close to the case said, adding that Chiolo was less seriously wounded in the cheek.

Elite police units moved in some 10 hours after 27-year-old Chiolo wounded the prison guards with a knife which Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet suggested might have been smuggled into the prison by his partner.

“There is no doubt as to the terrorist nature of this attack,” Belloubet told reporters earlier.

Chiolo, who was serving a 30-year sentence, is thought to have become a “radicalised” Islamist while in prison.

He shouted “Allahu Akhbar” (God is Greatest) during his rampage in the family-visiting area, prison staff representative Alassanne Sall told AFP.

The latest violence comes as prison staff nationwide, who have been demanding better working conditions, have repeatedly staged protests on Tuesdays.


In January 2018, prison staff held three weeks of protests after a guard was attacked by a jihadist inmate at a high-security jail in northern France.

Experts and trade unions have consistently raised the alarm about the spread of extremism in French prisons, leading the government to build special facilities to house dangerous individuals who are sometimes held in solitary confinement.

The Conde-sur-Sarthe prison is one of France's most secure jails and does not suffer from overcrowding, unlike other facilities, according to Belloubet.

But despite having been identified as an extremist, Chiolo was not housed in a secure wing for radicalised inmates which was opened in September, she added.

The first “jihadist attack” launched from within a prison in France took place in September 2016, according to prison authorities.

A Moroccan, jailed for attempting to travel to Syria to join jihadists, attacked two guards with a knife at a prison in Osny, northwest of Paris, saying he was acting on behalf of the Islamic State.

Then in January 2018, a German Islamist extremist, Christian Ganczarski, jailed for helping organise an attack against a synagogue in Djerba, Tunisia, wounded three prison guards in a knife attack at Vendin-le-Vieil, northern France, prompting staff to demand better safety and working conditions.