Increasing numbers of inmates commit suicide in France's biggest prison

Families, prison charities and media are more and more concerned by the recent increase in suicides at France's biggest prison. 

Roxanne D'Arco
Roxanne D'Arco NewsMavens, France
Increasing numbers of inmates commit suicide in France's biggest prison - NewsMavens
Fleury-Mérogis prison, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

On August 7, one inmate was found dead in the French prison of Fleury-Mérogis. This is the biggest prison, not only in France, but also in Europe. And this inmate committed suicide. A tragic end, but the concern is deeper since his is the eleventh suicide in the prison since January 2018. 

This number is higher than the suicide rate for the two last years for the Fleury-Mérogis' prison.  

According to the French news journal Mediapart, many factors can explain the situation.

First, the overpopulation of the prison -- Fleury-Mérogis is filled to 143% of its capacity. There is also a lack of guards and administrative oversight.

As a consequence, the staff does not have enough time to observe the psychological state of the inmates. 

Still after speaking with Mediapart, a nurse from the prison has been offered another hypothesis. "At Fresnes' prison when I was there, months would pass without anything occurring, and then, in a couple of weeks, two then three inmates would commit suicide without us knowing why. For some prisoners whith psychological issues, the acts of another person can trigger these impulses." 

Summer can be a hard time as well. Families, friends, members of prison associations go on holidays and the prisoners can feel more alone then usual. 

But some voices are growing criticizing the lack of support from the prison authorities and the government. It is unclear at this point, whether anyone from the French authorities are willing to take action on this issue. 

--If you feel that you or someone you know needs help, please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of local resources.

Details from the story:

  • Fleury-Mérogis is is the largest prison, not only in France, but also in Europe.
  • Many factors can be a reason of these deaths: lack of guards, lack of oversight, overpopulation, loneliness. 
  • Among these factors, associations are denouncing the fact that recommendations made in 2003 and 2009 to prevent suicide in French prisons  have never been implemented.
  • Some have been saying the prison authorities and the government are not willing to act since the population sees prison as a punishment and not a way to change its life and prepare yourself to reenter society. 

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