France: Screws loose as prison guards strike
A wave of suicides in French prisons has sparked a prison warden revolt at the beginning of the week (15th & 16th November). Granted, they were protesting for more staffing and better working conditions rather than campaigning on behalf of the suffering inmates, but the clash of prison wardens vs. cops must have been a pretty special sight.
On Monday, protests took place at 79 jails. The most riotous involved dozens of wardens who used tires and wooden crates to block access to three Parisian jails: Fleury-Merogis, Le Sante and Le Fresnes.
Union leaders have complained that policing of the actions - tear gas and opening fire with rubber bullets - was heavy-handed. Considering how hard cops find it to tell the difference between the innocent and the guilty on a normal day, one can imagine their heads were spinning with confusion as they faced up to their criminal justice compadres.
115 prisoners committed suicide last year in France and a suspected 45-50 have taken their lives so far this year - although official statistics are not yet available. The number of cases has led to criticism of conditions and overcrowding in French prisons. Over 63,000 people are currently locked up in France, over 10,000 more than the prison system's capacity. This makes them the most overcrowded in Europe.
However the government doesn't look likely to give in to the unions' demands. They say there has already been an increase in prison staffing and there will be no more. Not much joie de vivre in les slammers it seems.
Thanks to Schnews for this report.