Many individuals who have committed offences and suffer from mental health illness are held under the ordinary prison regime. Others are detained in Units for Difficult Psychiatric Patients or Psychiatric Intensive Treatment Units. These prisoners have different legal statuses, may be placed in several different settings, and receive various levels of care. What is the fate of mentally disordered offenders in France?

Prison Insider and the French National Union for Family and Friends of People Suffering Mental Illness and/or Psychological Disability (Unafam) examined the experience of offenders with mental health problems in eight European countries. Here is an overview of the situation in France.


CGLPL (Contrôleur général des lieux de privation de liberté, Controller-General for Places of Deprivation of Liberty): French National Preventive Mechanism.

CproU (Cellule de protection d’urgence, Emergency protection cell): confinement cells reserved for people at risk of suicide.

JLD (Juge de la liberté et de la détention): the Liberty and Custody Judge decides on pre-trial detention measures and rules on requests for release or for extension of pre-trial detention.

SMPR (Service médico-psychologique régional, Regional Mental Health Department for Prisons): reception centres for voluntary intensive care of prisoners in outpatient or day hospitalisation. They admit prisoners from all prisons in their region.

SPIP (Service pénitentiaire d’insertion et de probation, Penitentiary Integration and Probation Service): services responsible for helping prepare prisoners for their release. In the case of a prisoner suffering from a mental disorder, the SPIP contacts the prison medical staff to ensure continuity of treatment.

UHSA (Unités hospitalières spécialement aménagées, Specially Equipped Hospitalisation Units): care facilities placed under the authority of the prison administration who accommodate prisoners requiring psychological care, with or without their consent.

UMD (Unités pour malades difficiles, Units for Difficult Psychiatric Patients): specific units in psychiatric hospitals which accommodate people posing a serious danger to themselves or to others.

USIP (Unités de soins intensifs psychiatriques, Psychiatric Intensive Treatment Units): specific units in psychiatric hospitals which accommodate the most serious or dangerous emergency cases when their transfer to a UMD is not possible due to a lack of places.

USMP (Unités sanitaires en milieu pénitentiaire, Prison Health Units): units which provide outpatient psychological care in prisons.