French prisons have reached record levels of inmates this year, with 72,809 people behind bars, while there are only 60,700 places available.
The French Ministry of Justice released the statistics in November, noting that prison density in the country had reached 120%.
Poor prison conditions
AFP reports that this overcrowding has led to a drop in prison standards, with some 2,225 inmates having to sleep on mattresses on the floor.
This comes after the European Court of Human Rights condemned detention conditions in France in 2020, recommending the government “to consider adopting general measures aimed at eliminating overcrowding and improving the material conditions of detention “.
Inmates in several French prisons have complained of unsanitary living conditions and incessant noise.
Yet despite this advice from two years ago, today there are 56 prisons with a density of 150%, and six even exceed 200%, which means that they are double capacity.
This is the case in Carcassonne, Perpignan, Foix, Majicavo in Mayotte and Bordeaux-Gradignan, the first having reached a density of 215.6%.
What is the situation in Europe?
Over one year, there is a 4.3% increase in the number of French prisoners, a significant peak compared to the country’s European neighbors who have seen a decrease in the prison population over the last decade – by 12.9% in Germany and 17.4% in the Netherlands.
Despite this, the French prison population remains average on a wider European scale in terms of pure numbers, with 92 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the European Commission in January 2021.
That could change, however, if this month’s Justice Ministry statistics are taken into account, which would push the figure up to 107 per 100,000, putting France on a par with Greece.
While Finland maintained its prisoner count at 43.3 per 100,000 population, Hungary and the Czech Republic soared to over 179, a number further eclipsed by Turkey and Russia which recorded over 325 inmates for 100,000 inhabitants.