The number of detainees in French prisons reaches a new record

The number of detainees in French prisons reaches a new

73,080: the number of detainees in French prisons on April 1. This is the third month in a row where the number of detainees is on the rise in French prisons. The previous peak, in December 2022, was 72,836 detainees.

A new historic record has just been reached in French prisons. As of April 1, 73,080 people were detained there. Never seen. In January, the number of detainees fell slightly before rising again in February.

As of April 1, 2023, French prisons had 60,899 operational places. With 73,080 detainees, prison density overall is 120% against 117.1% a year ago. The occupancy rate even reached 142.2% in remand prisons, where prisoners awaiting trial – and therefore presumed innocent – ​​and those sentenced to short sentences are imprisoned. According to figures from the ministry, 55 prisons have a density greater than 150% where nearly three inmates in ten stay there. This occupancy rate reaches or even exceeds 200% in eight establishments.

More than 15,000 detainees are currently in excess of the places available in penitentiary establishments. Due to this overcrowding, 2,151 are forced to sleep on mattresses on the floor.

Prune Missoffe, responsible for the International Observatory of Prisons (OIP), deplored a “ situation that keeps getting worse, month after month “, despite the warnings about the ” dramatic conditions of overcrowding in French prisons. “ The government cannot continue to remain indifferent to the indignity of the conditions of detention and deaf to repeated calls by national and international observers to reduce the number of detainees “, reacted officially the association in a press release.

Ten new establishments soon to be delivered

This chronic evil of French prisons had earned France a conviction before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in January 2020. The government wants the construction of 15,000 additional prison places by the end of the five-year term.

If the implementation of this plan progresses, it “ lags behind “, underlined the Court of Auditors in its annual report published in April. “ The 7,000 spaces that were to be delivered before the end of 2022 have not been fully built “, thus noted the institution. In 2023, ten new establishments currently nearing completion, representing 1,958 places, should be delivered, she said. A total of 24 establishments, i.e. half of the initial forecast, should be operational in 2024.

► To listen also: Prison overcrowding, a French scourge

The Minister of Justice, Eric Dupond-Moretti must also present Wednesday, May 3 in the Council of Ministers his bill of programming and orientation of justice which ratifies in particular the construction of these new prison places.

To remedy these record occupancy rates, in addition to the construction of new prison places, the government is also counting on the effects to be expected from the extension of release under duress, which since January 1st allows the early release of detainees sentenced to less than two years’ imprisonment and who have less than three months left to serve.

(With AFP)