France: outcry over prison go-kart race

Video footage from Fresnes Prison, just south of Paris, is making headlines in France. The images show inmates competing against guards and other prison staff in a go-kart race and other games. The events were inspired by a French reality TV show and have sparked a debate about how much fun prisoners should be allowed to have.

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Le Figaro (FR) /

Public authorities losing their power

For Le Figaro the incident reflects a worrying development:

“Taking part in this Mickey Mouse Club for pimps there was also a rapist and perhaps other thugs, which makes the humiliation all the greater. At this point it's worth remembering that the correctional authorities had allowed these prison activities, and that the Ministry's communications department released the video. Everything is topsy-turvy behind the walls of Fresnes Prison, but what this incident really confirms is a diffuse but constant disintegration of the power of France's public authorities.”

Le Monde (FR) /

Conditions in prisons are the real scandal

Those who are outraged by the video fail to see the real scandal, court reporter and prison inspector Dominique Simonnot writes in Le Monde:

“In their bad faith, do these paragons of virtue not know that many prisoners forego their only daily walk and let their fellow inmates go without them so that they can rush to the toilet and finally enjoy a bit of peace and quiet? Do they not know that 1,860 prisoners sleep on mattresses on the floor and have to plug their noses with toilet paper to avoid breathing in bugs and lice? Do they not know that the prisoners have to wait months to see a doctor or a psychiatrist?”