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Judge frees inmate over wet and windy jail cell

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Judge frees inmate over wet and windy jail cell
A judge in France has made the "extremely rare" decision to free a prisoner because conditions in his cell were so undignified, including rain falling through the ceiling. File photo: Toni Birrer
10:51 CEST+02:00
A judge in France took the extraordinary step of freeing a prisoner near Paris this week, because wind and rain were blowing into his tiny cell, soaking him as he slept. The inmate's lawyer called his living conditions “unacceptable".

The inclement weather conditions inside the minuscule living quarters came to the judge’s attention when she herself recently visited the prisoner for questioning in the short-stay ‘maison d’arrêt’ at Bois-d’Arcy in the suburbs of Paris.

Also present that day was the inmate’s lawyer, Stephane Sebag, who found himself similarly appalled by what he saw: a 9m² cell, home to two men, a hole in the ceiling with wind and rain passing through it, and a single table and chair between the two beds.

“Above my client’s bed, there’s a hole [in the ceiling],” Sebag told French radio Europe 1.

“So, he has the choice of either getting his face wet as he sleeps, or his feet,” he added.

Late night indoor storms, however, were not the only serious problem with the inmate’s accommodation. The tiny living space appears to have made it impossible for its occupants to do much other than lie in bed all day.

“To see a big lad like him, 1.94 metres tall (6 ft 4 in), who can’t even get up and accomplish day-to-day tasks, it’s unacceptable,” Sebag said.

“Between the two beds there’s a space measuring 50 cm², and two people can’t be in it at the same time. For eating, they have a single table and chair, and a little electric stove they made themselves,” he added.

“Quite simply, things are so cramped in this cell that you have no choice but stay stretched out [in bed] all day,” Sebag concluded, praising the judge’s decision as “courageous” and “extremely rare”.

The local prosecutor, however, has reacted none too happily this week, according to Europe 1, and plans to launch an appeal against the prisoner’s release.

France’s prison system has reached something of a crisis point in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, The Local reported how hundreds of guards and other staff throughout the country had gathered in front of more than 100 correctional facilities to protest.

Members of the Ufap-Unsa prison guards union were rebelling against record levels of inmate saturation, along with concerns about staff safety and a lack of resources.

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