At the Saint-Quentin-Fallavier prison center, in Isère. (archives) - ALLILI MOURAD / SIPA

"Mr. President, the opportunity is there: do not miss it": some 1,000 justice professionals and personalities urge Emmanuel Macron to "put an end to prison overcrowding", in an open letter on Wednesday, while the epidemic of coronavirus has resulted in an unprecedented drop in the number of inmates. "For the first time in almost twenty years, there are fewer prisoners in France than prison places", write around forty associations and professional organizations of justice, lawyers, public figures and women and men politicians.

"As a result of an unprecedented health crisis, what was yesterday impossible has become reality: in two months, the number of people detained has been reduced by more than 13,500", continue the signatories, including the author Annie Ernaux, the journalist Anne Sinclair, writer and director Philippe Claudel, actor Bruno Solo or director Olivier Py. With 58,926 detainees on May 24 - compared to 72,500 on March 16, a record - for around 61,000 operational places, the average density of French prisons now stands at 96%.

Timid reform

This historic drop, linked to the reduction of criminal activity during confinement and to early release measures to avoid a health and security crisis in detention, "gives rise to mad hope" which must not be "killed in the egg ”, support the signatories. They call on the Head of State to "do everything" to avoid returning to prison inflation, and a chronic overpopulation which resulted in France at the end of January a condemnation from the European Court of Human Rights ( ECHR).

In March 2018, Emmanuel Macron presented a "refoundation" of prison sentences. The reform, which came into force on March 24, in full confinement, proscribes very short prison sentences and favors alternative sentences to imprisonment, but requires that sentences of more than one year of imprisonment be carried out. Prison supervisor Adeline Hazan and several associations, including the International Prison Observatory (OIP), believe that this reform will not be enough to prevent the prison population from starting to rise again.


"The Other Parlor", the radio program which maintains the link between families and detainees


In prison, the occupancy rate falls below 100%

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