Life in a French jail: 'The system doesn't allow you to change'

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Last week the French Ministry of Justice organised a key-note conference on reoffending. Mediapart has spoken to former inmates who told us how they got into crime and explained why prison doesn't stop people from reoffending - and how it can even sow the seeds of further crime. Prisoners often complain that no one listens to them, so we have decided to publish what they have to say, in their own words. What follows is an uncompromising account by 52-year-old Hafed Benotman, who still describes himself as a thief and who served three prison sentences and spent 18 years behind bars. He is now an author and scriptwriter and co-founded a newspaper which gives prisoners a voice.

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With the French Ministry of Justice last week organising a high-profile conference on reoffending, Mediapart decided to speak to former inmates about their experiences. They told us how they got into crime and explained why prison doesn't stop people from reoffending - and how it can even sow the seeds of further crime. Prisoners complain that no one listens to them, so we have decided to publish what they have to say, in their own words. Below is the blunt and uncompromising account of 52-year-old Hafed Benotman who still considers himself a “thief” and who has served three prison sentences and spent 18 years behind bars. He is now an author and scriptwriter and co-founded the newspaper L'Envolée, which gives a voice to prisoners. These are his words.