The Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), in a new report on its periodic visit to France in December 2019, expresses serious concern about material conditions of detention in police establishments, prison overcrowding, the conditions in which detained persons were transferred to and treated in hospital, as well as the lack of psychiatric places for persons in care without consent (see Executive Summary).
As regards police establishments, while the majority of those interviewed did not report any physical ill-treatment, several people indicated that they had been deliberately beaten during their arrest or on police premises. Allegations of insults, including of a racist or homophobic nature, were also reported, as well as threats made with a weapon. The CPT recommends issuing reminders that the use of force should be strictly necessary and that measures should be taken to strengthen the fight against impunity. Generally speaking, the CPT is extremely concerned about the material conditions of detention in some of the police stations visited.
As regards prisons, since 1991 the CPT has noted that prisons are overcrowded, with occupancy rates exceeding 200% in some establishments. At the time of the visit, almost 1,500 prisoners were sleeping on mattresses on the floor. The CPT calls on the French authorities to take urgent measures to ensure that each detainee has a bed and at least 4 m² of living space in a collective cell, to adopt a comprehensive strategy to reduce the prison population and to prevent inter-prisoner violence.
As regards psychiatry, the CPT visited Cadillac Hospital where the vast majority of patients with whom the delegation spoke felt that they were treated correctly by the health care staff, despite a perceived lack of time and availability. A small number of patients did however complain of having been subjected to abusive language, as well as excessive use of force, most often during restraints or placements in isolation rooms, in order to control an agitated patient.
The reports were published together with the responses of the French Government.