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France

Parliament examines plans for prison shake-up

Video by Christopher MOORE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-09-15

French lawmakers have begun studying a prison reform bill aimed at modernising the country's over-populated and decrepit jails and making the detention system more "humane".

French lawmakers are studying government plans to reform the country’s prison system after human rights groups repeatedly singled out the country for its poor jail conditions. Overcrowded cells and bad hygiene conditions are just two of French detention centres' numerous problems, and the prisoner suicide rate is the highest in Europe.

 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has called French prisons "the shame of the nation", and the European Union has demanded that France improve the detention conditions of its inmates to meet minimum European standards.

 

The proposed reform law plans to make the detention system more humane, with less time spent in isolated special punishment cells and greater parole for prisoners serving short sentences. The government also wants to triple the use of electronic tags. It plans to release prisoners fitted with the devices four months before the end of their term.

 

However, critics of the proposed reform bill say it leaves many problems unaddressed. They regret the decision to exclude repeat offenders from the electronic tag scheme, arguing it is one of the best ways of re-integrating them into society.

 

Rights groups also regret a lack of medical provisions for the 40% of prisoners suffering from psychiatric problems.

 

Finally, the opposition has denounced the official end of a commitment enshrined in French law since 1875 to offer prisoners individual cells.

 

Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on the reform bill on September 22.

 

Date created : 2009-09-15

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