France Releases Nearly 8,000 Prisoners in One Month Due to Coronavirus

A member of the 'Regional Response and Security Teams' (ERIS), who replaces staff members on strike, speaks on the telephone as prison guards block the entrance to the penitentiary center of Alencon, in Conde-sur-Sarthe, northwestern France, on early March 6, 2019, a day after a prison inmate seriously wounded two …

The overcrowded French prison system has released nearly 8,000 detainees in just one month to combat the spread of coronavirus.

The country’s prison system is still overcrowded, but French justice minister Nicole Belloubet said: “The overcrowding rate, which was 119 per cent on March 1st with more than 72,400 inmates, was 107 per cent on April 7th with 64,439 inmates. We, therefore, have close to 8,000 fewer detainees.”

The government ordered that prisoners with two months or less left in their sentences should be released from prisons, to combat the spread of coronavirus in the overcrowded prison system. Authorities have also postponed sentencing for shorter prison terms and limiting pre-trial detentions, Ouest France reports.

Ms Belloubet addressed claims in French media that at least 130 Islamic radicals had been released under the coronavirus prevention policy, saying that the actual figure was much smaller.

“Since March 27th, there have been 25 detainees recognised as radicalised who have been released from detention, but for normal reasons, because they were coming to the end of their sentences,” she said.

The minister added that so far, there have been 60 prisoners who have tested positive for the Wuhan coronavirus across the country and added that one prison supervisor and two inmates have died from the virus so far.

One of the prisoners released as part of the scheme in the department of Charente may find himself back in prison after he was arrested for stealing a car and brandishing a hatchet at police, who were forced to subdue him with their k9 unit.

While, according to Minister Belloubet, incarcerations have decreased during the restrictive lockdown measures, some French have found themselves in custody after repeatedly breaking lockdown rules, including a woman who spat at officers while calling them “dirty whites”.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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