behind the images, the reality of prison overcrowding in France

In France, almost all prisons have occupancy rates above 100%. Some have a number of detainees at least 3 times greater than their theoretical capacity.

A karting race that gives a boost to the controversy. Since August 19, the broadcast of the program “Kohlanness” shot in the prison of Fresnes (Val-de-Marne) has continued to stir up political debates, arousing indignation in particular on the right and on the left. extreme right and forcing Eric Dupond-Moretti to react: the Keeper of the Seals affirmed that he would have put “a very clear veto” on the competition if he had been informed.

But the scale of the controversy was an opportunity for others to point the finger at the conditions of detention of people imprisoned in France.

“These indictments come from elected officials and political leaders who, knowing the shameful state of our prisons and their overcrowding never before reached in our history, dare, for political reasons, to make our fellow citizens believe that prison life comes down to this day”, storms Dominique Simonnot, General Controller of places of deprivation of liberty, in a column published by The world.

“The real scandal is not karting, but the lamentable state of our prisons,” she denounces.

72,067 prisoners, 60,702 places

On July 1, France had 72,067 detainees for only 60,702 operational places, according to official statistics from the Ministry of Justice. Overcrowding mainly affects remand prisons or remand prison quarters, which are supposed to accommodate remand prisoners or convicts whose sentence or remaining sentence does not exceed two years.

The prison density there is 140.7% – in other words, they accommodate 14 prisoners for 10 places. Only 13 of them show a number of incarcerated persons lower than their theoretical capacity. As for Fresnes, where “Kohlanness” was filmed, the prison density exceeds 144%, with 1,918 people imprisoned on July 1, 2022.

Discover on the map below the official figures of prison overcrowding in all remand centers in France.

“In France, there are several categories of prison, the main ones being remand prisons and prisons”, explains Anaïs Henneguelle, lecturer in economics at Rennes-2 University and specialist in the prison world.

“In penal institutions, there is a ‘numerus clausus’: a bed necessarily corresponds to one person and you have to wait until a bed is available to organize a transfer”, she explains. “This way, the penal institutions are never overcrowded: at the maximum, they are always at 100% occupancy, no more.”

“The prisons, on the other hand, absorb all the prison overcrowding”, explains the specialist. They therefore concentrate the majority of the problems… And very often, the occupancy rates of these establishments are higher than 100%.

Four of them even accommodate twice as many prisoners as their basic capacity. Thus, the prison of Perpignan displays the most critical prison density – 423 people imprisoned for an operational capacity of 196 places, that is to say a prison density of 215.8%.

“Prison is at the heart of our repressive system”

Is the situation in France unique? According to the latest data from the Council of Europe, dated January 2021, France is one of the European countries with the highest prison overcrowding, behind Romania, Belgium and Italy. Far ahead of other of our neighbours, such as Germany or Spain.

Discover the official figures for the prison population of the various European countries as of January 31, 2021.

Anaïs Henneguelle sees in particular in these differences a difference in “the vision of the role of incarceration”: “Does a society want to incarcerate a lot or try to reintegrate differently?”

“In many European countries, such as the Netherlands or Germany, the prison sentence occupies a less important place than in France and other sanction systems will be favored, such as community service for example. “, she argues. “In France, on the contrary, prison is at the heart of our repressive system.”

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *