Inmates’ Facebook page sparks uproar in France

Inmates' Facebook page sparks uproar in France
An inmate at a French prison waves bundles of €50 notes around.Photo: Facebook/La Provence
A probe has been launched in France after inmates at a prison posted selfies on a Facebook page showing them waving bundles of cash around, displaying drugs and playing with mobile phones.

In one photo a prisoner at the Baumettes prison near Marseille, waves around €50 notes, another image shows an inmate smoking a shisha pipe and playing with a mobile phone while another shows cannabis laid out on a table.

The Facebook page titled "MDR Baumettes" (LOL Baumettes) had garnered nearly 5,000 likes before it was removed.

While it may have won a few fans on social media the emergence of the images on a Facebook page has not gone down well with authorities, who have launched a legal and investigation as well as an internal probe.

"We took immediate action after discovering this page by opening an investigation and informing the prosecutors in Marseille," said the local prisons administrative chief Philippe Perron.

Perron says the page was published outside the prison but said they had no idea who was behind it.

Local politicians reacted with outrage at the images.

“Wads of cash, mobile phones, It's the Baumettes holiday centre? This is shameful” said Nice mayor, Christian Estrosi.

The existence of the page and its contents also sparked fury among numerous trade unions representing prison officers.

"This prison has become a holiday camp," said a representative from Force Ouvrière.

For their part the CGT union complained the problems stemmed from a serious shortage of prison guards. Around 60 more are need for this prison alone, they claim.

“The situation has become unmanageable with one prison guard for over 130 prison inmates on average” said the CGT's David Cucchietti.

“This page does not show the job that the prison guards do every day. But it's a fact, the prisoners are left by themselves," he added.

Problems inside French prisons have been raised frequently in recent years with a report in 2013 revealing that French prisons were dangerously overcrowded.

The Baumettes prison made the news last October, when its prison guards protested in Marseille over their working conditions, and that they needed 50 more members of staff to be able to cope with the prisoners.

Numbers of inmates had reached 67,977, a record in France, when the real capacity was 10,000 fewer.

Numerous politicians, such as UMP's, Eric Ciotti, also reacted to the scandal by calling out for a reform of the prison system,and urged the Justice Minister Christiane Taubira to give prisons the necessary means.

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