According to Farah Sadallah
“At first, there were three of us in a 12 square meter cell with a mattress on the floor. There are two of us today, but it won’t last. They give us a third,” says this prisoner protected areas of the detention center, which is located astride Nantes and Carquefou(Loire Atlantique).
Accompany the Member of Parliament for the third electoral district of Loire-Atlantique, Segolene Amiot (Nupes) and deputy of the second electoral district, Andy Kerbrat (Nupes) – the condition of unrestricted access to various spaces – News from Nantes could visit this prison facility, Wednesday, September 7, 2022.
What is a detention center?
In France, a remand prison is a prison facility that receives defendants in pre-trial detention (detainees awaiting trial or whose convictions are not final), convicted persons whose sentence or the remainder of their sentence does not exceed two years, and convicts awaiting assignment to a penitentiary.
The impossibility of being alone in a cell
That day, this prisoner, who calls himself Pano in prison, confesses that he is bipolar and they need a cell for one person but it’s complicated. “There are people everywhere. It’s hard to have a solo cell, it’s not something that’s so easy to tune in”, he testifies and shows a courtyard full of people. He also put a cloth in front of the window to keep it quiet.
Pano still made several requests to be alone in a cell since his arrival. “I sent the letter on August 23, 2022. They can’t even with a medical certificate because there is overcrowding,” he continues, saying that he will not let the case go.
80 mattresses on the floor
He really knows prison significant overpopulation. According to facility director Nadia Calcagnile, who visits the prison, it is at 152% of capacity.
Total would be 774 detained in 570 places with 80 mattresses on the floor. That number is also down this summer because there are fewer incarcerated people this time of year, according to the director. Nadia Calcagnile therefore expects an increase in the number of detainees in the coming weeks.
It’s been going on for 20 years
But this situation is not an exception. All prisons in France have been dealing with this problem of overcrowding for several years. And remand prisons would be among the most affected prison facilities.
The Observatory on Criminal Justice Disparities reports this at his website :
For 20 years, this difference was about 10,000 prisoners above the operating capacity of French prisons. Prison overcrowding has been considered a major problem in the French penal system for several decades, but the situation persists.
Whoever says overpopulation says labor shortage
Especially since overcrowding often goes hand in hand with understaffing. Remand prisons are among the prisons that concentrate highest inmate load per staff memberaccording to the Observatory on Disparities in Criminal Justice.
“So guards generally have to manage a number of prisoners […] with a load that can regularly exceed three or four prisoners per warden. While the national average is around 2.5 inmates per guard.
Breaks at work are increasing
This situation affects their working conditions. The detention center in Nantes has to deal with a growing number of arrests since last Julynotes Fleur Froger, head of prison services at the detention centre:
Supervisors are missing. We see great suffering among our employees. They worked a lot of overtime this summer.
Faced with this, recruitment is an option, but the supervisor profession no longer appeals. 10 new officers were placed in a detention facility on 1ahem September 2022. “Three of them did not come. It’s huge when you know that the coverage rate is 88% when it should be 95%,” laments Fleur Froger.
According to her, this profession is experiencing a shortage. The officers are inside loss of meaning. “They’re not just there to open and close prison doors. Those aged 18-25 require considerable care, but a remand prison is not suitable because of overcrowding,” he continues.
These difficulties also have an effect on daily life of prisoners.
A lack of guards in a facility can lead to limited access to visiting rooms or activities, dehumanizing the relationship between guards and prisoners, and leaving more room for things like aggression and extortion.
Inmate Pano correctly confirms that he does not develop enough activities. He would like to go at the hairdresser for example, but there are not enough supervisors for that arrange travel.
This situation is thus increasing tension between prisoners. “There’s a lot of fighting in the yard right now,” testifies Nadia Calcagnile, referring to dropped packages. These people come from outside and are sent inside the prison. They contain “telephones, narcotics, meat, cannabis”, enumerates the director of the remand prison.
“They have increased since last year and this is creating many problems among the inmates. Some applied pressure the most vulnerable“, describes Nadia Calcagnile. And the lack of supervisors does not help calm the situation.
Six suicides since the beginning of the year
The tension is also rising between guards and prisoners. In the protected area, Pano and his fellow prisoner can’t take it anymore. “We are at the end,” they confide News from Nantes. The two seemingly calm men don’t get along with the guards in their neighborhood.
There seems to be a pernicious atmosphere there. Six defendants have committed suicide since the beginning of the year in a protected unit this prison. A “monstrous” figure, according to Dominique Simonnot, general administrator of places of deprivation of liberty.
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