Parisian cells are 'squalid and inhumane dungeons.'

Whilst the French verbally attack the United States for the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo..............

Cells at France's Palais de Justice condemned as 'squalid and inhumane dungeons'

By Peter Allen in Paris
(Filed: 10/10/2005)

The European Council's commissioner for human rights has described conditions in the prison in France's most august court building as the worst he has seen.

Alvaro Gil-Robles said the cells in the historic Palais de Justice in Paris were squalid and inhumane.

Describing them as "dungeons", he said: "It is incredible that people are imprisoned in such conditions, without ventilation and without natural light. I have never seen a worse prison." Mr Gil-Robles, 60, an academic lawyer and Spain's former national ombudsman, spent 16 days in France last month inspecting prisons, detention centres and mental hospitals.

In a meeting last week with Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister, he said he was astonished that such "squalid and inhumane conditions" should exist at the Palais de Justice, the vast complex that houses the supreme court of appeal and criminal courts.

The palais is situated on the beautiful L'île de la Cité, a few hundred yards from Notre Dame cathedral. But in its "dépôt", human rights organisations have uncovered evidence of prisoners, mainly illegal immigrants, going without food, drink and lavatory paper as they huddle together for warmth. There have been numerous violent attacks and cases of detainees mutilating themselves and smearing their blood on the walls.

"You are drowned in the middle of all of those excluded from society and also the mad and the ill," said 55-year-old Farouk, a former prisoner.

Jean-Pierre Dintilhac, a former public prosecutor, said: "The basement of the palais dates from another age."

The interior ministry said that Mr Gil-Robles's findings would be studied diligently. (external - login to view) . .
From The Scotsman. . . .

Rat-infested French jails likened to 'dungeons in Middle Ages'


FRANCE'S prisons are the worst in Europe and their cells are akin to dungeons in the Middle Ages, according to a watchdog's report yesterday.

Hygiene is "deplorable", with inmates crowded into filthy, rat-infested cells, leading to an explosion in the number of prisoners with infectious diseases, the International Observatory of Prisons (IOP) said.

It described conditions as "catastrophic" and condemned the French government for failing to improve matters. "The situation is totally unworthy of our level of civilisation. Conditions of detention are close to those of the Middle Ages," the Paris-based IOP said.

It blamed the government's tougher sentencing polices for aggravating chronically bad prison conditions without solving the problem of delinquency.

The report said French jails suffered from overcrowding, bad hygiene, rising violence and suicide rates of more than six times the national average - France has Europe's highest suicide rate among prisoners.

The number of suicide attempts rose 10 per cent last year, while incidents of self-wounding and hunger strikes were up 25 per cent.

Violence and revolt against the prison authorities have also increased dramatically - there was a 155 per cent rise in the number of riots last year.

Eight out of ten inmates suffer from psychiatric problems, but access to medical care is limited.

"Fifteen months to treat a toothache - one is less well treated when one is in prison than when one is an animal in the zoo," the main lawyers' union in France said.

Both it and the judges' union described the situation as "detestable".

The IOP also denounced "disproportionate security measures", citing the example of a prisoner who was handcuffed while giving birth at Fleury-Merogis prison, near Paris.

The report placed the blame squarely on policies championed by Nicolas Sarkozy, the interior minister who has stated his intention to run for president in 2007, saying France's conservative government was wrong to fight delinquency with a drive for longer sentences.

Patrick Marest, of the IOP, said: "The deterioration in the condition of the prisons is not due to the inevitable result of incarcerating dangerous people. It is the result of policy choices."

The scandal surrounding the conditions in French jails first broke in 2000 when a doctor at Paris's notorious La Santé prison published a book revealing what life was really like for the country's inmates. Dr Veronique Vasseur said inmates lived in squalor, surrounded by rats and cockroaches, and were subject to brutal rapes and fist fights which were daily occurrences.

"The place remains an inhuman nightmare," she said, "an eternal shame to France."
GL Schmitt
At least there is a greater chance that the prisoners languishing inside those substandard prisons have actually committed a crime.

France is only 95th worldwide at imprisoning its citizens, at 95 per 100,000 of its 60,656,000 total population,

Alternately, Russia is 2nd worldwide at imprisoning it citizens at 584 per 100,000 of its 143,420,000 total population.

But Russia is almost a piker compared of the United States whose prison population is the largest in the world, with 715 prisoners per 1000,000 of its 295,734,000 total population.

This is not to excuse the conditions in France, but just to point out that they haven't made an industry out of incarcerating its citizens.

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