“The causes are often identical: prison overcrowding, insufficient guard staffing, weak management and a lack of activities,” the report said.
President Emmanuel Macron promised during his campaign to make room for an additional 15,000 inmates. This month, calling conditions for both inmates and guards “shameful,” he said the government would present a prison reform plan by the end of February.
Cécile Marcel, the head of the International Prison Observatory, a French organization that monitors detention conditions, said that the striking prison guards were right to request better pay, but that they were looking at the staffing issue “the wrong way around.”
Newsletter Sign Up
Thank you for subscribing.
An error has occurred. Please try again later.
You are already subscribed to this email.
“It’s not that there isn’t enough staff, it’s that there are too many inmates,” she said in a telephone interview, noting that France’s prison population had doubled since the 1980s.
Ms. Marcel said the authorities devoted too much time and energy to building new prisons instead of exploring alternatives to incarceration or improving conditions in existing prisons, many of which are antiquated and leave inmates idle for much of the time.
The government announced this month that it would start equipping prison cells with phone lines in coming years to help inmates communicate with their families more easily and at lower costs, and to cut down on the smuggling of mobile phones, both with the aim of lowering tensions.
Inmates will be allowed to dial a limited number of approved phone numbers, and all calls, except those with lawyers, will be recorded and available for the authorities to listen to. Inmates under disciplinary action will not have access to the service.