The Council of Europe is alarmed by prison overcrowding in France

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The Council of Europe, watchman of human rights on the continent, pinned France on Thursday in a report denouncing “material conditions of detention” in certain police stations, as well as “prison overcrowding”.

The Council of Europe sounded the alarm on prison overcrowding in France by publishing, Thursday, June 24, a report denouncing “material conditions of detention” in some police stations.

This report follows the seventh visit by a delegation from the Council’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), carried out in December 2019 to twelve police and gendarmerie establishments, four prisons as well as within the establishment. of psychiatric care in Cadillac (Gironde).

In its report, the CPT said it was “deeply concerned” by the “material conditions of detention” in certain police stations, “prison overcrowding” and “the lack of places in psychiatry for people in care without consent”.

“As during previous visits, the vast majority of people met (…), both in the police and gendarmerie stations and in the remand centers (…) made no allegations of physical ill-treatment” , according to the report.

However, the Committee said it had received allegations of “insults, including racist, homophobic or transphobic, from the police”, as well as “threats made with a weapon”.

“A not insignificant number of people, including minors, indicated that they had been intentionally beaten (…) during the arrest once they were immobilized”, further notes the CPT.

“Presence of rats”

He mentions in particular the case of a “person with reduced mobility” claiming to have, during police custody in Lille, “been pushed from his wheelchair, handcuffed behind his back, dragged on the ground to a cell and hit by police “.

“The videos viewed by the delegation corroborated these allegations”, specifies the CPT, according to which “a message of ‘zero tolerance’ of ill-treatment should be regularly reminded to all the police forces”.

The last two CPT reports on France, in 2012 and 2017, were already quite critical.

“The French authorities do not tolerate the slightest inappropriate violence from the police” and if “such acts” occur, they are “systematically condemned”, insists the French government in its responses to the report.

The “message of ‘zero tolerance’ of ill-treatment is regularly reminded to the police and will continue to be so”, continues the government, while recalling that “the physical and sometimes violent force opposed to the police by a person” may require “actions intended to protect (the agent), or even the person himself”.

“Since 1991”, French prisons “have been overcrowded to worrying levels, with occupancy rates exceeding 200% in some establishments,” write the authors of the report.

“At the time of the visit”, many detainees were accommodated “two or three in cells (of) less than 10 m²” in the prisons of Bordeaux-Gradignan, Lille-Sequedin and Maubeuge. The “presence of rats” was noted in these last two establishments.

“Relevant” measures against Covid-19

The Committee also said that it had received “a small number of allegations of willful violence by staff” on detainees and “a greater number” of testimonies of “excessive use of force”, in particular “during placement in a disciplinary cell” .

The CPT calls on Paris to adopt “a global strategy” to “reduce the prison population”, in particular by resorting to “penalty adjustments”.

“The context (…) has changed profoundly” since the Committee’s visit, underlines the government, since “from March” 2020, France reduced its prison population in order to “prevent the spread” of Covid-19 in prisons.

The government also insists “on the development of alternatives to imprisonment (…) and on the increase in the number of prison places”.

At the Cadillac Hospital Center, where “the closed units of general psychiatry were under tension, suffering from a lack of beds and a regular overcrowding”, “the vast majority of patients” said to be “correctly” treated. “A small number”, however, reported “abuse of language” or “excessive use of force”.

In a separate report, also published Thursday and written after a visit in July 2020 to places of detention in Strasbourg (prison, detention center, police stations, gendarmeries …) in order to assess the measures against the Covid pandemic- 19, the CPT considers that, “on the whole”, they have been “relevant” for the protection of officers and detainees, although “the care of the latter can still be improved”.

With AFP

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