Measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus? For those on partial release, self-isolation is like being imprisoned all over again.
Samy is detained on partial release in the west of France, in Le Mans. It is normally possible for these prisoners to go out during the week, notably to seek employment. Faced with the coronavirus pandemic and to limit social contact, those who are on partial release have been placed in detention. Samy tells his story.
They say that those on partial release will be detained in custody. Basically, we are just a prisoner number. It would suit them if we died in our cells.
I think I’ve got it. I’ve got a cough. I’ve been told that it has to be a dry cough, but I’m coughing phlegm. It’s weird, I think I have some of the symptoms. Yesterday, I had blurred vision and everything. Apparently, they want to lock us up. As soon as I get back, I’m going to tell them “since we don’t have a doctor on-site and you are detaining us by force, you’re going to have to bring the emergency services with you right away.”
Apparently, they are going to lock us up again. We are on partial release, but we won’t be allowed to go out any more. At the centre, they didn’t warn us about anything. I was told to come back at midday. I told them that the judge had given me authorisation to return at 1pm, so I came back at 1pm. They replied: “This has come from the President”. I told them: “I don’t give a toss, I didn’t watch TV yesterday.”
We’re stuck. We have all been locked up. We can only go out if we get authorisation. I was only allowed to go to the chemist because I have a prescription for the medication that I have to take. That’s why I went out. Otherwise, no one is going out. They’ve basically put us back in prison.
I’ve been authorised by the sentencing judge in Nantes to go out between 7:45am and 1pm and on Saturday, between 1pm and 7pm. Now, I no longer have that right. They came and made me sign a declaration. I appealed; they say that those on partial release will be detained in custody. Basically, we are just a prisoner number. It would suit them if we died in our cells. There is no healthcare unit in the partial release centre. No doctor. If we’re ill, we don’t know what we’ll do. No one knows. The guards don’t know.
I had to make a huge fuss yesterday because I had a prescription for my chronic bronchitis. I am a part of the extremely vulnerable and exposed population, so I need to be tested.
They’re telling me that I can’t have a test. I don’t understand. How am I going to cope?
I have no access to healthcare. I told the guards yesterday that I didn’t feel well and that I had symptoms. As I’m not actually in prison, there is no doctor, nothing at all. I’d like to have a blood test and also an assessment of my bronchitis. People with respiratory problems are the first to succumb, so I need an appointment urgently.
We are serving a prison sentence, so we’re still within the justice system. It’s a sentence adjustment. When you’re on partial release, it’s not normal to be put in this position. We are stuck. For example, no one in the centre has any tobacco.
Yesterday, I made a fuss and managed to go out. Today, I’m the only one who’s been out. The President gave an order, but he didn’t say not to go out. He even talked about walking his dog. So, if I need to go and buy a dog, I’ll go and buy one. And I’ll take it for walks.
Some detainees are going back and forth to work and could be carrying the virus. I am in a closed environment with them, so they are putting me in danger.
I informed the prison staff that the partial release centre was not appropriate for detaining us because they couldn’t comply with the regulations, like our freedom to go out at certain times and to look for work. They’ve taken away our mobile phones, we can’t do anything! I asked if we could keep them. I threatened to stop eating. I won my case and we will be able to use them for the whole isolation period.
I also put in a new release application, due to coronavirus. Some detainees are going back and forth to work and could be carrying the virus. I am in a closed environment with them, so they are putting me in danger.
We are stilllocked in our cells. We have the right to exercise for an hour and a half in the morning and afternoon, that’s all.
My cell is just an ordinary one in a recently built unit. Those who have a job can go out and travel to and from work, as long as they take their personal travel exemption form with them. Those who don’t have a job are reincarcerated. The cell door is locked. We go out for walks. There is a small gym. I avoid going out so that I don’t come into contact with others. I’m self-isolating.
I don’t really see the point of partial release, detaining some people and mixing them with others who do go out. It doesn’t make sense.
We can get a personal travel exemption form if we make an appointment. In order to attend the appointment, we need to have already received confirmation. But until recently, we didn’t have a phone, so we couldn’t make an appointment or get a confirmation! It was impossible for me to continue to receive care and look for a job. I appealed against my detention. They came and said that they were going to shut the door. I don’t believe I should be locked up. The outside population is not under lock and key. I didn’t come here to be imprisoned again. I need to get my vaccines and I can’t get them done. Basically, they don’t give a damn about healthcare.