Striking Prison Guards Blockade Two-Thirds of France's Prisons
French prison guards have blocked access to more jails in response to newly reported attacks by inmates.
An estimated 125 prisons of France's 188 prisons have been blockaded prompting French officials to threaten sanctions and fines upon the prison guards. Under French law, prison guards are not allowed to strike.
The picketing prison guards have called for a “total blockage of France’s 188 prisons to begin on Monday until their demands for higher salaries and more staff is met by the government. A meeting between police guard union representatives and the justice minister Nicole Belloubet are proposed for Monday afternoon.
French police had violent clashes with protesting prison guards in front of France’s largest prison facility, Fleury-Mérogis, last week. Teargas and clubs were used to break through wooden pallets and fencing materials to allow essential workers to enter the facility.
In Fresnes prison, guards met to weigh their options. Union representative Frederic Godet told his members that “they will suspend you and threaten to fire you,” according to Agence France Press. The conditions at Fresnes prison are an example of why prison guards are protesting. The facility was designed to house 1,400 prisoners yet 2,800 are crammed into small cells.
An official report in 2016 found Fresnes to be rat-invested with three inmates sleeping in a 100-square-foot cell.
Despite Godet’s warning, prison guards voted to continue blocking the prison facility.
Inmate violence against prison guards is frequent. A high-security facility in northern France was put on lockdown after a convicted Al Qaeda member attacked guards with a razor and scissors. Three guards were seriously injured.
The prison guard strike is also having an impact on the inmates of which fifty percent are of Muslim backgrounds. Garbage has not been collected in almost two weeks leaving a stench both inside and around the prisons. Local police have also had to intervene in order to feed prisoners.
Union leaders are demanding a 20% starting salary increase, 1,500 to 3,600 new guards and the segregation of violent inmates. Whereas the government has offered to create 1,100 new prison guard positions over a four-year period and increase security measures at prisons.
As a result, the meeting tentatively scheduled for next week is in jeopardy.
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