Capital city — Paris
Country populationi2018/ INSEE
Incarceration rate (per 100,000 inhabit…
Type of government
Human Development Index
Homicide rate (per 100,000 inhabitants)i2015/ OECD
Name of authority in charge of the pris…
Total number of prisonersi01/01/2019/ Prison administration
Average length of imprisonment (in mont…
Prison densityi02/2019/ Report CGLPL
Total number of prison facilitiesi01/01/2018/ Prison adminsitration
An NPM has been established
Number and percentage of female prisone…i2019/ Prison administration
Incarcerated minorsi01/2019/ Prison administration
Untried prisonersi01/2019/ Prison administration
Death penalty is abolished
Number and percentage of female prisoners
Percentage of untried female prisoners
Different types of penal institutions hold women :
- penal institutions exclusively for women
- units exclusively for women
They are dispersed throughout 58 facilities. The female prisoner population density varies from one facility to another.
Most of the women are incarcerated inspecific sections of prisons that are mainly for men.
There are three exclusively dedicated facilities:
- Rennes Penitentiary Centre
- Fresnes detention centre
- Fleury-Mérogis detention centre
The guards are female, but management personnel may be male. Overpopulation affects female units in some of the detention centres.
There is an effective separation between men and women
Untried female prisoners are separated from the convicted
The prison staff is
The guards are female, but management personnel may be male.
Searches are conducted by a female staff member.
Pregnant women are housed in specific units or cells
The legislation provides for a sentence adjustment for pregnant women or women with young children
Pregnant women or mothers in prison may request a suspended sentence for family reasons. The number of women benefitting from this measure is unknown.
Pregnant women receive proper prenatal care
In spite of the measures implemented to ensure that pregnant prisoners receive adapted medical care (obligatory prenatal follow-up, the provision of prison escorts for medical procedures), gynaecological exams, and sometimes deliveries, are done with the presence of prison staff. This situation sometimes leads to the refusal of care.
Childbirth takes place in
outside care facilities
Security staff is prohibited from entering the room during labour and childbirth
The use of instruments of restraint is forbidden during labour and childbirth
Mothers are allowed to keep their children with them
yes, until 18 months of age
This period may be extended in the event of the mother’s imminent release. There are some 60 children born during their mothers’ incarceration every year.
The law bans the imprisonment of minors
(the age of majority is 18)
Minimum age of juvenile incarceration
13 years old
Their imprisonment remains exceptional below 16 years old.
On 17th June, the Minister of Justice presented a new Juvenile Code of Criminal Justice bill for minors. In this bill, presumption of irresponsibility would be applicable to children below the age of 13. There would also be a specific emphasis on legal educative measures. The code comprises several provisions aimed at reducing measures applicable to minors.
Variation in the number of incarcerated minors
Their number increases, between 2015 and 2017, by 9.1%.
The CGLPL visited five juvenile units and three juvenile detention facilities in 2018. They did not report any overpopulation but did note a very clear increase in the rate of incarceration for minors. This increase is believed to be due to the increased incarceration of unaccompanied foreign minors.
Ministry in charge of juvenile offenders
ministry of Justice
Under the Act of 2 February 1945, children and young people under 18 are subject to a special justice system. The Juvenile Judge, Juvenile Court, and the Assize Court for minors follow a different process than those for adults (taking into account the mitigation of responsibility, closed door hearings, etc.).
Minors are housed in six detention facilities for minors (établissements pénitentiaires pour mineurs (EPM)); the others are dispersed among the 47 juvenile units (quartiers pour mineurs (QM)).
The assignation of the juveniles to the different centres must take into account their interests, such as the place of residence, their education needs, and the proximity to the court in charge of the dossier.
Figures on juvenile prisoners are published
on a regular basis, every three months
Juvenile prisoners are separated from adults
The separation of minors from adults is not always effective.
The law provides for single cell accommodation for juvenile prisoners
The detention regime in the QMs needs to be adjusted in order to prevent any contact with adults. Juveniles are usually housed in single cells, but this is not always the case, especially when there is overpopulation.
The schooling of minors is compulsory
Schooling is mandatory until age 16, as on the outside.
The law forbids solitary confinement for juvenile prisoners
Solitary confinement is possible under the same conditions as for adults.
The detention system in the EPMs is a mixture of repression and education. Group events (cultural and sport activities) are held, and sometimes are deemed to be excessive. Minors are usually housed in single cells.
The Judicial Youth Protection (Protection judiciaire de la jeunesse) provides teaching staff to the EPMs and QMs. The other staff members (guards, health) are, in principle, specially trained. Guards assigned to QMs do not always receive specialized training to deal with minors. Prison and teaching staff have reported problems they encounter when there is overcrowding. Schooling is mandatory until age 16, as on the outside.
Foreign prisoners can be assisted by an interpreter
in some cases
Foreign prisoners are entitled to legal aid
Illegal residency is no longer considered an indictable offence per se, but its consequences may be.
Foreign prisoners are allowed to remain in the country after having served their sentence
under certain circumstances
Foreign prisoners are allowed to work while incarcerated
Even though there is no obligation to group foreigners in specific units, the practice of non-institutional and non-generalized “ethnic sorting” persists. It leads to a division within quarters based on nationality or origin, real or supposed, on the sole criteria of a person skin colour. Some prisoners request to be with a cellmate with whom they can communicate.
Foreigners are often victims of discrimination when it comes to obtaining work, sentence adjustments and in maintaining family ties, and they are even more vulnerable when they cannot speak French. All requests must be made in writing, which is not always possible for foreign prisoners. In theory, an interpreter must assist them during the entire procedure, including the disciplinary one, but there are not enough interpreters, or they may even be unavailable.
The issues associated with the right of residence also contribute to daily stresses of prison life. Incarceration is an obstacle in terms of undertaking the necessary steps, which have become very complicated.
The process of obtaining a residency permit requires obligatory meetings in the prefecture. Prisoners are required to apply for temporary absences, which are often not granted. Interviews for asylum seekers may now be carried out inside the prisons with audio-visual methods of communication - complete with all the difficulty that these methods entail, including: lack of confidentiality, mistrust, interpretation, etc. Persons ordered to leave French soil usually benefit from a 48-hour appeal period, but the process for people in detention is complex.
A long-term sentence is considered as such as of
There are specific prison facilities for long-term prisoners
Life sentences are banned
People serving a life sentence
Life sentences are for the most serious crimes (certain kinds of murders and terrorism).
There are specific prison facilities for life-sentenced prisoners
People sentenced for criminal offences are usually sent to maximum security prisons, facilities where detention is largely based on security.
“Unconditional imprisonment” excludes the possibility of adjusting a sentence for a period of 18 years. This detention can be shortened or extended, under certain conditions, for a maximum of 22 years.
Life imprisonment without possibility of release is the most severe sentence under French law and is subject to an unlimited, unconditional period of detention. Three particularly serious crimes (certain kinds of murders and terrorism) lead to a “real” life sentence.
A possibility of release exists, in practice, for people condemned to life imprisonment without possibility of release. The article 720-4 provides for the possibility of re-examining the case after thirty years of incarceration. The judge’s decision may only be taken after a panel of three experts chosen from the list of experts accredited to the Court of Cassation has stated its opinion as to the danger of the convicted person.
Untried prisoners are separated from the convicted
The law provides for release on bail for untried prisoners
Minorities or indigenous people
Data collection about prisoners’ minority or indigenous background is allowed
Minority or indigenous backgrounds are criteria for specific cell or unit assignment
Even though there is no obligation to group foreigners in specific units, the practice of non-institutional and non-generalized “ethnic sorting” persists. It leads to a division within quarters based on nationality or origin, real or supposed, on the sole criteria of a person’s skin colour. Some prisoners request to be with a cellmate with whom they can communicate.
People of certain religious or ethnic groups are not subject to any particular detention regime.
The prosecution or imprisonment of a person on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity is banned
LGBTI persons are separated from other prisoners
in most cases
The assigning of trans inmates to prison is based on their marital status. They are often placed in isolated quarters for their own safety. Access to work and other activities is difficult, if not impossible. The Fleury-Mérogis Prison has a section reserved exclusively for trans inmates, which usually include between 20 to 30 persons. The ACCEPTESS-T Association provides them with support.
The adjustment of their daily life is determined, on a case by case basis, by prison staff.
Assignment of transgender prisoners to a specific facility depends on
their ID gender
The rules for assigning trans inmates are not always applied. While in prison, LGBTI persons are often victims of homophobic or transphobic acts of violence, including: verbal, physical and sexual assaults
Transgender prisoners are entitled to customised searches
Transgender prisoners benefit from specific health care
Accessing health services is a major problem. Trans persons do not receive any information on the type of medical care they can get. They receive the same basic medical care as others in the facility.
The prison service keeps a record of elderly prisoners
Elderly prisoners (≥60 years)
Older prisoners are not divided off into groups in the facilities or into specific units. The facilities are not designed to accommodate them: the pace of daily prison routine and its organisation are sources of anxiety.
Prisoners at end-of-life can benefit from conditional release. Another sentence adjustment available for medical reasons allows prisoners with a life-threatening prognosis to spend their final days with loved ones. These procedures are not always adopted, mostly, because of the lack of housing upon release. Some seniors have to spend the rest of their days in prison, with personnel who are neither trained nor have the resources to assist them.
The number of older prisoners increased by six times over the last 25 years.
There appears to be a lack of appropriate activities, limited access to work and little medical care. Doctors have also reported problems with procuring medical equipment. Older prisoners find it difficult to receive human assistance and are often forced to get help from other inmates.
Death penalty is abolished
yes, since 1981
The last execution took place on 10 September 1977.