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Inmates’ Facebook page sparks uproar in France

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.

Inmates' Facebook page sparks uproar in France
An inmate at a French prison waves bundles of €50 notes around.Photo: Facebook/La Provence

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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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.

(AFP)

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.

 

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