A French prison
2 November 2017

France stands by the Council of Europe and the ECHR

On 31 October, the President of the Republic paid an official visit to the Council of Europe and European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. Taking advantage of this opportunity to reiterate France's steadfast support for both these institutions, he also presented the Counter-Terrorism Act which lifted the state of emergency on 1 November. During his keynote speech before the ECHR, he outlined, on another note, what the Government is intending to do to tackle prison overcrowding.
 
Emmanuel Macron addressed the Council of Europe and the ECHR with a view to underscoring France's commitment and support for the work that these two institutions carry out in Europe. He is the first French President to speak before the judges of the ECHR.
 
The day after the signature of the Act to reinforce internal security and the fight against terrorism, which enabled the state of emergency to be lifted on 1 November, the President of the Republic explained the background behind this legislation and the store that France sets – at a time when terrorism is on the rise – by the balance between public freedoms and necessary counter-terrorism measures. 

Tackling the challenge of prison overcrowding

Before the ECHR, Emmanuel Macron was frank about the situation in French prisons, which are grappling with major overcrowding problems.
 
To address this issue, the Government has planned to open an extra 15,000 prison places during the five-year term. As part of a sweeping package of justice reforms, it also intends to change the status of the sentence, since "sentences are sometimes handed down when they are not necessarily the most appropriate response," Emmanuel Macron said.
 
The Government would like to develop so-called "alternative" sentences and uptake of the community service sentence, considering that it is vital to engage in in-depth discussions on the criminal justice policy, on the relevance of sentences and on the essential social reintegration of prisoners. For the aim is to issue a restorative sentence, grounded in the active participation of the offender and including a strong educational focus
 
To that end, the Government is looking to establish an Agency in the context of the justice reform that will make it possible to regulate and develop community service – when this only accounts for a mere 7% of sentences handed down today.