Under the windows of the cells of the prison of Fresnes, in the courtyard, trays of food started gathering. And rats, by the dozen, sneaking between the remains, not frightened at all by the human presence.
“We cleaned it a few hours,” sighed the supervisor. “But the inmates have been in the habit of throwing their waste out the windows. They do this to protest against their conditions of detention, but also because they simply lack space in their cells, and they do not have a refrigerator.”
The rodents, which proliferate for several years within the walls of this old prison, invade all places. And in the outer court, no bench. During their daily walk, the prisoners are thus forced to remain standing: impossible to sit on the floor with so many rats around.
A chair for three inmates in a cell
inside the walls, another scourge that poisons the lives of inmates and guards: the prison overcrowding. More than 2,800 prisoners for up to 1,400 places, in particular because of the closure of the prison in paris the Health, in 2014. Result, more than half of the detainees living 20 out of 24 hours to three, in cells of 10 square meters.
Y., P. and L. shared their cell. Them have the chance to get along, and not suffer the violence of one of them. In the background, the television, aspect old-fashioned, they pay 14 euros per month to the prison administration. All three spend the majority of their day lying on their bunk beds, lack of space to stretch your legs, and furniture.
“there was only one single chair and a table. So when there is one who sits, the other, they stay around. To eat sitting at the table, waiting for the other to finish, there’s a mix,” said one of them to BFMTV.
Not intimacy, not more to go to the toilet, installed in the cell, separated only from the rest of the room by two doors.
“The skin which scratches, the buttons that appear”
The property is also infested with bed bugs. According to a report by the Comptroller general of places of deprivation of liberty, made public this Wednesday, 281 cases of skin disease related to these bed bugs have been reported between march and October 2016.
“We bitched for three weeks so that they pass we disinfect the cell. They have done so, but this is not even finished, there are still. So you’re the skin that you scratch, you have buttons that appear. The only drugs we are given, it is paracetamol and pills for sleep. It does not take away anything,” said one of the inmates.
Even the shower is not a relief to calm the itching.
“We have the right to shower three times a week, often in a cold shower for 5 to 10 minutes maximum. And yet, it is when one is awake when they come and get us. Otherwise, no shower. You must wait two more days…”
A lack of capacity and staffing
The management says it is aware of all these problems, but faces an acute shortage of means – the budget planned for the year 2017 has been started from the month of November 2016 – and number of employees. It should here be 80 supervisors, but in the paris region, and particularly in Fresnes, the job of overseeing the prison is no longer attracting, gliding a manager. A low pay, gruelling working conditions, power relations permanent. Moreover, about 70% of the officers of this prison have less than a year of experience.
Laurence Bee, mp EELV du Val-de-Marne, came in February, 2015 visit these places. Last Monday, whilst she was BFMTV in this new visit, she said she was overwhelmed by the degradation of the situation.
“The overcrowding at the time was 178%, is in excess of 200% occupancy today. The means of justice are not up to the stakes. The prison conditions here are absolutely unworthy, and unbearable, for the people who work here, like for the inmates. And this phenomenon of overpopulation creates a great difficulty for prisoners to prepare their reintegration. They may not correctly follow courses, or vocational training,” growls the parliament.
two months ago, the court sentenced the State to take measures against the pests that proliferate in Fresnes, after having been taken by the international Observatory of prisons. The actions of the rat are in progress. But because of the overcrowding, which prevents it from leaving empty cells in the time to disinfect them, these actions are slow… and often ineffective.