The penitentiary system

On 1 January 2017, there were 187 detention centres:

  • 82 remand prisons (and 45 remand prison units located within penitentiary centres)
  • 97 centres for serving sentences:
    26 detention centres (and 40 detention centre units located within the penitentiary centres)
    6 maximum security prisons (and 7 maximum security units located within penitentiary centres)
    • **11 day-leave centres **(and 18 day-leave units as well as 9 Adjusted Sentence units located in penitentiary centres)
    54 penitentiary centres comprised of at least two different quarters.
  • 6 penitentiary institutions for minors (EPM).
  • 1 national public health centre in Fresnes.

The number of penitentiary centres is increasing: 58 in January 2018. There were 54 in January 2017 and 50 in January 2016.

The total “operational” capacity (number of places available in prisons) is increasing regularly:

  • 57,841 on 01/01/2015 (+0.6 % more than 2014)
  • 58,561 on 01/01/2016 (+1.2 % more than 2015)
  • 58,681 on 01/01/2017 (+0.2% more than 2016)
  • 59,765 on 01/01/2018 (+1,8% more than 2017)

The White Paper Commission on Prison Premises submitted its report to the Minister of Justice in April 2017. It addresses mainly the construction of new prisons, staff recruitment and training and the integration of these facilities into their territory.

Number of institutions with private management


/ Prison administration

Number of available places for prisoners


/ Prison administration

The total number of prison personnel was 39,414 on 1 January 2017, among whom there were 25,849 guards (27,849 on 1 January 2018) and 5,306 prison intake and probation officers (services pénitentiaires d’insertion et de probation (SPIP)). SPIP officers monitor those entering the judicial system, assist with legal decisions (sentence adjustments) and with preparing for release. They are also responsible for cultural activities in the facilities.

Other personnel on 1 January 2017 were:

  • 511 managers
  • 3,128 administrative staff
  • 621 technical staff
  • 1,999 others (contractors, chaplains…)

** — Recruitment**

Between 2016 and 2017, the number of guards and SPIP counsellors increased by 734 (+3 %) and 211 (+4 %) respectively.

The screening of guards is inadequate due to new staffing needs and little consideration for the trade. Courses at the National School of Penitentiary Administration (ENAP) are eight months combining work and training. The candidate, who must be at least 19 years old, must have a college diploma (Certificate of General Education) or an equivalent and recognized diploma. The recruitment of guards, who are the first contacts for prisoners, does not give enough consideration to the human qualities needed for their role. In 2016, the National School of Penitentiary Administration (ENAP) gave 3,826 people basic training, including 2,489 guards.

** — Working conditions**

A common thread observable across the board: the lack of financial and human resources limits their actions and their work is particularly difficult when cells are overcrowded.

In June 2017, the CGLPL published a report on prison personnel. The Controller-General for Places of Deprivation of Liberty observed, in particular, with the guards and those being guarded, “that there exists between them a real community of interest”. “The conditions of looking after people who are incarcerated are the same as the working conditions of professionals. Respecting their rights is essential to the serenity of their work and thus the security of these facilities”.

** — Independent services**

Health personnel is dependent on the Ministry of Health, and teaching staff is dependent on the National Ministry of Education.

National Education allocates 483 full-time teachers (mainly first-level) for the 2016 school year and funded 4,643 additional hours for the year; the equivalent of 704 teaching positions were provided to the prison system.

Number of guards


/ Prison administration

Guards-inmates ratio


/ Prison administration

Number of social and educational workers