The French government on Tuesday announced measures to tackle the shocking rate of suicides in prisons, including giving vulnerable prisoners tearable bedding and single-use paper pajamas to stop them hanging themselves in their cells.
France’s overcrowded and often fetid jails have been damned by campaign groups. French President Nicolas Sarkozy acknowledged this year that prisons were the nation’s “shame.”
Reports by the UN Human Rights Committee and the Council of Europe have accused French jails of being dirty, degrading and inhumane. Overcrowding is rife and there are more than 62,000 inmates crammed into a prison system designed to house 51,000. The government yesterday said 81 prisoners had killed themselves in jail this year. But non-government organizations say the figure is higher. Suicides in prison have largely been men, with around one in five aged under 25, but also including teenagers. More than half are on remand, often it is their first time in prison.
Suicide rates in French prisons far exceed figures in countries such as Germany and the UK and figures for this year could be the worst in a decade. Prison wardens have staged protests over prison conditions and the suicide problem, with wardens’ unions warning the prison environment is so bad that there have also been suicides among prison officers.
French Justice Minister Michele Alliot-Marie announced on Tuesday special “protection kits” for vulnerable inmates, including tearable sheets and blankets as well as flame-proof mattresses. Touring a prison in Orleans to launch the measures, she said there would also be more training and better prisoner support. She also said the government would be more “transparent” about the scale of the problem. It has previously been accused of sweeping it under the carpet.
The night before Alliot-Marie’s announcement, a 37-year-old inmate in Marseille who had been under observation over family problems was found hanged in his cell.
The justice minister’s new suicide prevention measures take into account a series of recommendations by the psychiatrist Louis Albrand earlier this year. Albrand had boycotted the handing over of his report, accusing the government of failing to take the issue seriously and burying the problem. On Tuesday he called for “a real revolution in French prisons,” saying the institutions must be “humanized.”
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable