France’s Surge in Prison Population Prompts Mass Jail Expansion
France will build 32 new jails and one detention center to deal with overcrowding, largely fueled by mass arrests from counterterrorism operations.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls also said France would build 28 rehabilitation centers, reconstruct 12 prisons and build 16 more. The country’s prison population has soared to over 10,000 past capacity—at 140 percent overpopulation in some places—, disproportionately occupied by Muslims.
“In the 10 years to come, … you will see our prisons change,” said Valls. “You will see the carceral world evolve.”
Valls will spend about US$1.3 billion in the first phase to build nine prisons, using an elevated budget for the ministry of justice—up nine percent—allocated to counterterrorism. Once the ministry builds between 10,000 and 16,000 new cells, it will have spent up to US$3.5 billion.
Currently, prisoners sleep on floors and in cramped, rundown cells, drawing the attention of the European Union’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture to cite over a dozen institutions, including ones for “radicalized” prisoners, for the “deprivation of liberty.”
An EU report last year found, among other violations, “no complete compartmentalization of sanitary facilities, lack of heating, … mattresses on the ground, lack of privacy and risks of conflict within cells, greater shortage of access to work and activities; reduced possibilities of dialogue and care on the part of prison officers, reduced possibilities of relations (telephone, visiting room sessions) with the outside, deterioration of working conditions of staff, etc.”
While Valls said that “these conditions are not worthy for France,” he said nothing about slowing the pace of incarceration or expanding alternative forms of punishment.
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