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French jail probes prisoners’ ‘Harlem Shake’ video

YouTube (screen grab)

A high-security prison in northeastern France is investigating the release of a “Harlem Shake” video filmed by inmates that has created an Internet sensation. One warder blamed lax security during prison visits.

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Prisoners in a high-security French jail have caused an Internet sensation after two videos, one of them a “Harlem Shake” group dance, were widely shared on social networking sites, leaving prison authorities red-faced.

In a second video a prisoner at the Montmédi detention centre in northeastern France is seen wearing a prison warder’s uniform and smoking marijuana.

“No searches today,” he says ironically. The prisoner filming the scene replies that “if all the warders were like you, prison would be good fun”.

Both videos were posted on the Facebook page of hip-hop collective “Gangster D-Ter” along with messages of support for its incarcerated members.

New prison policies to blame?

The release of the videos taken on mobile phones - which are banned in French jails - is a severe embarrassment for the prison authorities, who on Tuesday confirmed the clips were made at the jail but refused to comment while the matter was investigated.

One member of the UFAP prison warders’ union, who asked not to be named, blamed new rules that meant inmates were no longer systematically searched after visits.

“Since 2009 it has been incredibly easy to smuggle items such as mobile phones and drugs into the prison,” he told FRANCE 24.

He also criticised prison policies allowing the more brazen inmates to roam the corridors with impunity.

“The rule here is that if a prisoner is the victim of extortion or violence, he is locked in his cell during the day,” he explained.

“The most dangerous prisoners have the freedom to walk around the wings and get up to no good. It’s not fair at all.”

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