• France's news in English
How can France solve the problem of its bursting jails?
Prison guards clash with police as they protest against the working conditions.

How can France solve the problem of its bursting jails?

The Local · 8 Aug 2016, 15:48

Published: 08 Aug 2016 15:48 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

France’s prisons system is in crisis, mainly due to the fact that it has more inmates in its jails than ever before.

In July authorities counted 69,375 prisoners compared to 58,311 official places available in the country’s 188 prisons.

One of the prisons, Fleury-Mérogis to the south of Paris, is the biggest in Europe. It was built to house 2,857 prisoners, but now has 4,539 under its roof.

Some prisons like Nimes in the south are 207 percent over capacity, with inmates sleeping on mattresses on the floors of cells.

The French Prime Minister Manuel Valls along with his Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas visited Nimes on Monday to witness the scale of the problem.

The Prime Minister vowed that a plan to deal with the record number of inmates will be announced in the autumn. He immediately launched a study on how the bulging prison in Nimes could be extended to cater for more prisoners.

As well as renovating prisons and creating new cells Valls said the government had to reflect on “how to deal with the overpopulation of prisons in the short term.”

Those on the right in France are demanding an extra 20,000 places be created in new prisons to cater for the record number of inmates, which shows no sign of decreasing.

However not all are in favour.

Adeline Hazan France’s prisons chief warned that extra places in prisons does not mean a solution to the longstanding issue.

“History has shown us that the more we build places in prisons, the more they will be filled,” she said adding that she was not in favour of the rights call to build new prisons or extend existing ones.

She did however add that an extra 6,000 places would ease the crisis.

Hazan said it would be preferable if France could decide on alternatives to sentencing people to prison, which should be used “as a last resort, just as the law states”.

The prisons chief spoke of more conditional suspended sentences, controlled probation and allowing prisoners out of jail under strict checks.

The justice minister is also believed to favour creating kind of half-way prisons where inmates must spend the night but are allowed out at day.

Story continues below…

She put the overpopulation of prisons down to repeated violence between inmates and between prisoners and wardens.

Trouble has often flared between inmates and wardens, who have been forced to protest at various times in recent years over their working conditions.

François Bes from the International Prison Observatory (OIP) is also against just building new prisons as a solution for having too many prisoners.

He believes young offenders should be sentenced to work or training to help get them back on the right path and punishments that benefit the public could be handed out to those who damage property.

He points out that it costs France €100 a day per prisoner to lock them up, but for those who serve sentences without going to prison it's €40.

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
France to clear 'Jungle' migrant camp Monday
Migrants will be bussed from the camp to some 300 temporary accommodation centres around France. Photo: Denis Charlet/ AFP

The "Jungle" migrant camp on France's northern coast will be cleared of its residents on Monday before being demolished, authorities said Friday.

How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
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
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available