French prisons have reached record levels of inmates this year, with 72,809 people behind bars, despite there only being 60,700 places available.
The French Ministry of Justice released the statistics in November, underlining that prison density in the country has reached 120%.
Poor prison conditions
AFP report that this overpopulation has led to a decline in prison standards, with some 2,225 prisoners having to sleep on mattresses on the floor.
This comes after the European Court of Human Rights condemned prison conditions in France in 2020, recommending the government “consider adopting general measures aimed at eliminating overcrowding and improving material conditions of detention”.
Inmates in several French prisons had complained of filthy living conditions and incessant noise.
However, despite this advice two years ago, there are now 56 prisons with a density of 150%, and six even exceed 200%, meaning they are at double capacity.
This is the case in Carcassonne, Perpignan, Foix, Majicavo à Mayotte and Bordeaux-Gradignan, the former has reached density of 215.6%.
What's the picture in Europe?
Over one year, there has been a 4.3% increase in the number of French prisoners, a large spike compared to the country’s European neighbours which have seen a decrease in prison population in the last decade - by 12.9% in Germany and 17.4% in the Netherlands.
Despite this, France’s prison population is still average on a wider European scale in terms of pure numbers, with 92 inmates to 100,000 inhabitants, according to the European Commission in January 2021.
This could change, however, if this month’s Ministry of Justice statistics are taken into account, which would see the figure rise to 107 per 100,000, putting France on a par with Greece.
While Finland kept its prisoner numbers down to 43.3 per 100,000 inhabitants, Hungary and the Czech Republic soared at over 179, a number further dwarfed by Turkey and Russia who registered over 325 inmates per 100,000 inhabitants.