France: intimacy inside four walls

One week follows another, and trips to the visitation room, too. A slender thread connecting those inside and those outside, a fragile respite, short, frustrating visits without intimacy, more like interviews that put loving and family relations to a hard test. In France, Family Visit Units (FVU) 1 are available in some prisons. They are small, 2-3 room furnished apartments separate from the detention area, where a detained person can spend time with his family or relatives in some privacy.

Celine’s partner is serving a sentence of ten years. He has been imprisoned for six years when he submits his first request for an FVU. After months of visits in the regular visitation rooms, permission for a nine-hour stay is granted. Céline tells the story.

  1. for more in-depth details about Family Visit Units, you may consult OIP-SF’s website, (in French) 

Unless you have permission to take leave from the prison, this is the only way for us to spend time together

We can hear everything that’s going on outside: doors slamming, buzzers, keys turning in locks

The justice system that has condemned you has also condemned me to wait until you’re released to become a wife again