Striking French prison guards clash with riot police


Violent clashes between prison guards and riot police erupted on Friday outside the vast Fleury-Mérogis prison near Paris on the fifth day of national industrial action by jail staff across France protesting at undermanning and security, as news emerged that inmates had attacked and wounded staff in a prison in Corsica.

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French riot police clashed on Friday with striking prison guards who accuse the government of doing little to counter spiraling violence and Islamist activism inside the country’s overcrowded jails, reports Reuters.

The scuffles outside Fleury-Merogis prison, one of Europe’s largest with 3,800 inmates, coincided with news from a jail in Corsica that two security guards were attacked and injured by inmates. It is the latest in a series of assaults that have overshadowed France’s prison system in the past week.

“We’re fed up. We’re taking a thumping inside and now we’re being thumped outside,” jail guard Thibault Capelle said after police advancing with shields and using tear gas broke up a picket at the entrance of Fleury Merogis, on the southern outskirts of Paris.

The protests there and at many other prisons began a week ago, after an Islamist militant jailed over the killing of 21 people in Tunisia in 2000 slashed guards on the head and torso with a pair of scissors in northern France.

With pressure mounting, President Emmanuel Macron said last week a plan would be presented in February to tackle the issue. It would go beyond an existing promise to build thousands of new prison cells, he said.

France’s prison population has more than doubled since the 1970s, to around 70,000, making it one of the highest in Europe.

The incident in Corsica prompted rapid publication of a statement of sympathy by Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet, who was accused of responding sluggishly to earlier assaults.

Maxime Coustie, representative of staff at Corsica’s Borgo jail, said several inmates struck one guard in the back with a sharp instrument and another in the face. Both were hospitalised.

One of the assailants had attracted the attention of prison authorities after beginning to practise a more extreme form of Islam.

Radicalization among petty criminals is a growing concern in France after Islamist attacks that have killed close to 250 people in Paris and other cities over the past three years.

Read more of this report from Reuters.


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