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France

French prison suicide rate twice European average

Inside Marseille's Baumettes prison
Inside Marseille's Baumettes prison AFP/CGPL /Gregoire Korganow

France prison suicide is twice the European average, according to a new report by the Council of Europe. A notorious gangster on Saturday killed himself in a Marseille prison after being extradited from the Netherlands.

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There were 95 suicides in France in 2010 - 15.5 suicides for 10,000 inmates – compared to an average of 6.7 for the Council's 47 member countries.

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Only the Netherlands and Belgium have higher suicide rates in their jails than France.

The rates in Germany and Italy are considerably lower at eight per 10,000 inmates.

France is not taking the right approach in dealing with inmates suffering from depression, Babara Liaras, of the international prison observatory in Paris, told RFI.

France’s prisons are notoriously overcrowded, with 113 prisoners for every 100 places, the same proportion as Greece and Italy.

Only Serbia’s jails are fuller, with 157 prisoners for 100 places, but the Council of Europe also report found that prisons are overcrowded in nearly half of the 47 European Union countries.

But the French demographic data institute, Ined, points out that there is no clear link between overcrowding and suicide rates.

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Most suicides take place at the beginning of a period in detention and they are more widespread among those awaiting trial than among convicted criminals, Ined says, indicating that many are caused by problems adapting to the situation or shame at the revelation of an alleged crime.

French governments have launched two programmes to try to reduce prison suicides, one in 2004 and 2009.

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira has ordered the creation of another 5,600 places in French prisons in the coming five years.

On Friday, the day of the report's publication, Marc Amando, who is believed to have planned the "heist of the century" in 1992 committed killed himself in Marseille's Baumettes prison.

Amando, 56, had been arrested for alleged cocaine trafficking in Holland. 

He is believed to have been behind a bank robbery in the southern French port city of Toulon in 1992 that netted 146 million francs (22 million euros).
 

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