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France: the government to stop sending petty criminals to prison

France’s Minister for Justice has unveiled a plan to stop overcrowding in the country’s prisons that will scrap short sentences and create 7,000 extra places for more serious offenders.

France’s Minister for Justice Nicole Belloubet presented the government’s new measures to put a stop to overcrowding in prisons outlined in the new “prison plan” which is set to be unveiled on Wednesday.

The plan promises to reduce France’s prison population by 8,000.

This is what we know about the plan so far:

Jailing fewer offenders

Belloubet wants to avoid short prison sentences by changing the length of sentence for which offenders have to serve jail time.

If her plan goes ahead, prison time would be scrapped for sentences of less than one month. Meanwhile, those sentenced for to one to six months in jail would carry out the sentence at home with an electronic bracelet or serve their time in a semi-custodial facility.

According to an “impact study”, by 2022 this would reduce the number of prisoners by 8,000.

“We have made imprisonment the only sentence, which is inefficient when it is short-term,” Belloubet told Les Echos, adding that she would like to develop alternatives to incarceration, including community service.

7,000 extra places

To fight against chronic overpopulation, the minister’s plan aims to create an additional 7,000 prison spaces before the next election and by 2022 she wants to start creating another 8,000 places, in line with the goals of French President Emmanuel Macron.

According to the latest official figures, the number of people detained in French prisons was 70,519 on August 1st – technically there are just 59,870 places available.

A total of 2,500 of the new spaces will be built in prisons with a “high level of security”, Belloubet said.

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