Living conditions

The law establishes a minimum standard for living space per prisoner


A 1987 memorandum states that a cell with a surface area less than or equal to 9m² may accommodate one person; a cell of 9-11m², two people; and a cell of 11-14m², three people.

Prisoners are accommodated in single cells

in most establishments

Individual confinement is the norm in prisons, with the exception of those overseas. However, it is not the norm in jails, which house the majority of the incarcerated population. The law has provided for the right to individual confinement since 1875, with this right being reaffirmed in 2000. Moratoriums have followed, with the expectation that the number of places available will be sufficient for the number of inmates to be housed. There may be three people placed in a single cell, and four in a double cell. Judges, parliamentarians and prison administrators still tolerate the placement of several people in one cell. New facilities, which are supposed to guarantee individual confinement, do not do so.

Prisoners sleep on

a bed or a mattress on the floor

Overpopulation is such that not all inmates have beds.

All the prisoners are provided with bedding


The cells/dormitories are provided with electric lighting


The cells/dormitories are equipped with heating and/or air conditioning


Prisoners can smoke

in their cell/dormitory

Cells are usually equipped with one bed, one chair and one shelf or cupboard per person. A small table is shared among cellmates. Cellmates complain that the cupboards do not lock. Everybody complains about the grating that blocks the windows. There is often a lack of ventilation and light in the cells of older facilities.

Prisoners have access to water

in their cells/dormitory

All cells contain a sink and toilet.

Showers are located in the cells/dormitories

in some establishments

Facilities built since the 1990s usually have a shower in the cell. The sanitary block has a partition wall.

Prisoners can use the showers, when not located in their own cell, at least three times a week.

Types of sanitary facilities

regular toilets

Sanitary facilities are clean, adequate and accessible


Toilets are located inside of cells; their upkeep is the responsibility of the occupant.

The prison service provides personal hygiene products free of charge

• for new arrivals
• for poor prisoners

A kit containing personal hygiene products (toilet paper, toothpaste, soap, etc.) is provided upon arrival. It does not cover all needs (notably feminine hygiene products) and is only replenished for destitute prisoners.

The prison service provides cleaning products free of charge

• for new arrivals
• for poor prisoners

Cleaning products provided by the prison administration do not always cover all needs. The cleaning kit distributed once a month usually includes: a scouring sponge, a 300ml bottle of dishwashing liquid and a 300ml bottle of multi-surface cleaner. A garbage bag is handed out every day and the bins are collected daily without waste sorting.

Beddings are refreshed


It is the responsibility of the administration or a private contractor to wash bedding.

The administration does not provide clothing. Inmates are not required to wear prison-issued clothing. Indigent prisoners are given lockers. The washing of personal belongings is the responsibility of inmates or their loved ones. The exchange of personal belongings for laundering takes place during visiting hours.

The cleaning of individual cells is the responsibility of the occupants. The maintenance of premises and communal areas is a service provided by paid inmates.Maintenance is often lacking. The proliferation of rats and bedbugs is a recurring problem. Collective showers are deteriorating and often dirty.Older facilities do not meet the minimum requirements despite the renovations undertaken. Hygiene in newer facilities is usually considered adequate.


  • Prisoners are living in squalid conditions in Perpignan Prison, with more than 60 prisoners sleeping on mattresses on the floor. The French division of the International Observatory on Prisons (Observatoire international des prisons, OIP) said that it had received ‘multiple’ reports on this prison. “As well as being overcrowded, it’s clear that there is serious dilapidation in the prison such as mould and mildew in the showers, exceptionally filthy cells, cells infested with bed bugs, etc.” The arrival of a heatwave has contributed to heightened tensions in the prison.

    / France Bleu

Drinking water is free and available in all areas of the facilities


Number of meals per day


The administration provides three meals a day, at the usual times.

Daily cost of meals per prisoner


(3.10 euros)

Food services are managed by

the prison administration and private food services

The prison service is required to meet nutritional standards regarding quality and quantity


Nutritionists in each facility create the menus and determine the portions of food served. The quality and quantity of meals vary from facility to facility. Portions are often considered insufficient.

The prison service provides food that respects special dietary needs


Cultural, religious and dietary practices are generally taken into account, but are sometimes considered insufficient. The absence of halal products is the reason a large number of vegetarian menus are served.

Prisoners eat their meals in

in their cell/dormitory

Prisoners can buy food products


Prisoners can have access to a refrigerator


Prisoners may rent a refrigerator.

Prisoners are allowed to cook in their cells or in a shared space

in most establishments

Newer prisons have hotplates. People incarcerated in older facilities cook in their cells, with or without permission, using utensils they have made themselves.

Prisoners are allowed to receive food parcels


During the Christmas holiday season, everyone is allowed to receive one package with a maximum weight of five kilogrammes; its content is regulated.

Part of the prisoner's food is produced by the prison