The French Minister of Justice, Nicole Belloubet, has announced the release of 10,000 prisoners at the end of their sentence in order to relieve congestion in French prisons and to help control the spread of the coronavirus, rampant throughout the system.
ON March 1, French prisons, faced for years with chronic overcrowding which resulted in France being condemned by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in January, had 72,400 detainees, an occupancy rate of 119 per cent.
“The impact (of the crisis, note) on our detentions is very strong,” said the director. Prison density after the releases “is now around 103 per cent.”
In remand centres, where defendants and short sentences are imprisoned, and where overcrowding is the heaviest, the density has fallen sharply, the overcrowding rate has “decreased by 22 per cent since the start of the crisis.”
Despite a reduction in the number of detainees France’s prisons are still severely overcrowded, with 66,000 people living in prisons designed for only 61,080.
“Those conditions make lockdown and social distancing impossible,” said Marcel of the International Prison Observatory.
“There are two, three and sometimes four inmates in one nine-square-metre cell. Moreover, prisoners don’t have easy access to soap and water, and hydroalcoholic disinfectant gel is banned,” said Marcel. “The prison guards don’t all have masks and they have to search inmates with their bare hands.”