Abolished by a 1981 law, the last execution occurred on the 10th of September 1977.
Deaths in detention
A 31 year old female died on the 5th of April 2015, after setting herself on fire, a 74 year old male committed suicide on the 10th of April by strangling himself; a 16 year old adolescent hung himself on the 30th of October, a 51 year old male was murdered on the 28th of March 2015 by another prisoner and a 65 year old male died on the 21st of November, following a lengthy illness.
The prison administration (PA) does not publish regular statistics on the number of deaths and suicides in prison. The most recent numbers are from 2014. They do not include the total number of prison deaths. Deaths that occur after discharge are not recorded.
Nearly half of these deaths are due to suicide. Violence and illness are the other main causes, whereas homicides are rare.
There were 1,033 suicide attempts and 110 suicides reported by the PA in 2014, 16 of whom, were people under electronic surveillance outside of prison. The suicide rate among detainees is 13.9/10,000.
The daily paper Le Monde reported on the 20th of April 2016, that the number of suicides in 2015 was 113.
According to a study conducted by the Institut national d’études démographiques, (INED 2014), suicides occur 7 times more inside prisons than outside them.
Certain factors such as arriving in detention, being on remand, being placed in a disciplinary cell and the severing of family ties increases the risk of suicide. Prevention policies have improved, but have not been able to decrease the rate significantly: France remains the 7th European Council country with the most prison suicides.
The State was condemned in February 2015, for the suicide of a minor on the 17th of December 2010 at the Tours Detention Centre (maison d’arrêt de Tours), for “errors that led to faulty adapted surveillance, that constitute a prison administration offence involving State responsibility”.
A guard was given a six month deferred sentence on the 4th of August 2015 in Amiens, for failing to assist a person in danger. On the morning of the 3rd of March 2011, an inmate died at the detention centre after having ingested copious amounts of medications the night before. The court deemed that Eddy C. was “in a state of imminent danger” when G. checked in on him and that G. was “aware of this state”.
An inquiry began in February 2015, following the death of an inmate at the hôpital de la Meynard (Martinique) during the nights of the 8th and 9th of February. The young man was 23 years old, and had been detained in the Ducos Correctional Facility. He had been ill for several days, but was taken to the hospital too late. Some of the other prisoners witnessed the incident.
The Arras Public Prosecution (Le Parquet d’Arras) opened an inquiry in December 2015, following the death of an inmate in his sixties at the Bapaume Detention Centre, in August of that year. He had been hospitalized on several occasions. There was no space available for him in any of the specialized medical units.
Number of deaths
/ Directorate of Prison Adm.
Suicide rate in detention
Violence and ill-treatment are part of the daily routine in detention.They can take on many forms: violence among the inmates, violence from prison staff or prisoner violence directed at the staff or self- harm. The violence can be physical or verbal (insults, derisions, harassment or threats).
One inmate filed a complaint in April 2015 for having been stripped naked, pinned to the floor and beaten black and blue, by guards at the Fleury-Mérogis Disciplinary Centre (quartier disciplinaire de Fleury-Mérogis). Other complaints about this centre were filed in that same year.
All incidents must be documented daily by the facilities and classified by category. The Prison Administration reported in 2014 (last numbers published) that there were, 4,122 physical attacks against staff, 149 of which resulted in temporary leave from work, 8,061 attacks among inmates and 12 hostage takings.
Violence perpetrated by staff against inmates is not published, and very rarely results in disciplinary or legal proceedings.
Violence is exacerbated by overcrowding. The new design of facilities, including the architecture, the limited contact between guards and detainees and the prisons being large creates tensions caused by certain disciplinary sanctions, discrimination, and naked body searches. An open letter from inmates at the Guyana Penitentiary confirmed this in June 2015.
On the 4th of April 2016, the French section of the IPO (International Prison Observatory) published on its Mediapart blog a summary of offences committed by staff at the Remire-Montjoly Penitentiary in Guyana. This document is based on the report of the Inspection générale des services judiciaires (IGSJ) who went to the establishment in September 2015, at the request of the Ministry of Justice (Garde des Sceaux). “On the 11th of May 2015, the facility’s video showed a prisoner being severely beaten by prison guards and then pulled by the hair down a corridor. The director filed a complaint…which was not followed up by the Cayenne prosecutor”.
Hostage takings generally occur when prisoners serving long sentences get exasperated, because their requests are not heard. The assistant director of the Vendin-le-Vieil (Pas-de-Calais) Prison was taken hostage on the 9th of September 2015. He was freed “safe and sound” according to the unions, after being held for more than three hours. The hostage taker was serving a 28 year prison sentence, and had already been through more than 80 establishments. His demand is to return to Guadeloupe, his home country.
It is important to note, that some detentions can occur arbitrarily when mistakes are made at the registry office for those who should have been released.