France’s justice minister meets unions amid protests from prison officers
The spate of demonstrations were provoked by a knife attack by a radicalised inmate on three warders at a high-security jail.
France’s justice minister has met with union leaders in an effort to end a nationwide prison blockade launched by guards seeking improved working conditions.
After two failed rounds of negotiations, Nicole Belloubet was expected to bring new proposals to the table during the meetings at the Justice Ministry’s headquarters.
As the movement entered its 11th day, Ufap-Unsa union head Jean-Francois Forget said before speaking with Ms Belloubet that he was optimistic that progress had been made overnight, notably on the issue of radicalised inmates.
Mr Forget told BFM television channel that he expected Ms Belloubet to announce the number of places dedicated to hold only radicalised convicts to be increased tenfold, up to 1,500.
At the moment, some radicalised convicts are placed among the general prison population, which guards say leads to radicalisation of other inmates.
The national protest started after a radicalised inmate attacked three guards with a knife at a high-security prison in northern France.
The attack at Vendin-le-Vieil was carried out by Christian Ganczarski, a German who converted to Islam and was sentenced to 18 years in prison for his involvement in a 2002 attack on a synagogue in Tunisia that left 21 people dead.
More attacks have been reported since, in about half-dozen prisons, fuelling the guard’s anger and demands.
The protests have also affected inmates’ life conditions, with reduced time out of their cells because of the lack of guards available.
The current movement, growing increasingly tough, is the largest in years, with the majority of France’s 188 prisons affected to various degrees. A spokesman for the penitentiary administration said guards were protesting at 116 prisons on Thursday.