Inmate Facebook selfies page sparks inquiry at French prison
A judicial inquiry was opened in France on Monday into how inmates at one of the country’s most notorious prisons were able to take photos of themselves posing with drugs, money and other contraband and upload them onto Facebook.
Dozens of ‘selfies’ taken by inmates at Les Baumettes prison in Marseille in southern France were uploaded onto a Facebook page titled “Dying of Laughter at Les Baumettes”, local newspaper La Provence reported.
Pictures posted on the page include those of prisoners brandishing wads of cash, posing with mobile phones – forbidden inside the prison but often circulated among inmates – and even drugs and related paraphernalia proudly displayed on a prison bed.
Philippe Perron, head of France’s Prison Administration, said that a judicial investigation was launched immediately after the Facebook page was discovered.
The page was published from outside the prison but its author, who is yet to be identified, has now deleted it, Perron told AFP.
The photos have sparked outrage among prison guard unions, who say crippling staff shortages at the prison are allowing inmates to break the rules with impunity.
“What we're seeing in these photos...what are they trying to say? That prison guards aren't doing their job?” said Catherine Forzi of the FO Penitentiaire prisons union.
“First of all, we need a sufficient number of guards - which is not the case today. They're so overwhelmed, they can't do their jobs anymore.”
Les Baumettes, designed for a prisoner population of 1,200 but currently housing 1,800 inmates, has become notorious for a string of recent scandals.
A 2005 Council of Europe report slammed the prison’s squalid living conditions, describing them as “on the borderline of the acceptable, and on the borderline of human dignity”.
While in January last year an inmate armed with an iron bar was able to take the prison’s director hostage for several hours.
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