Drastic Increase in Attacks in French Prisons Coming From Radicalized Inmates, Institute for Justice Said

By David Vives

The fate of imprisoned terrorists is being revisited in France, after an assault on two supervisors in Condé-sur-Sarthe prison on March 5.

Common law detainee Michael Chiolo was in the family life unit with his wife before the special brigade intervention. The 27 year-old-inmate attacked two supervisors with the help of a ceramic knife, according to the direction of the penitentiary administration.

French Prison Guards
Two prison guards during a demonstration, in southern France after a radicalized inmate attacked a warden, on March 14, 2019. (Raymond Roig/AFP/Getty Images)

Chiolo’s wife was shot during the police intervention. According to a medical report, she was pregnant.

French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet described the March 5 morning attack as a “terrorist attack.” Chiolo was incarcerated first after being convicted of several crimes, including kidnapping and savagely hurting an 80-year-old woman.

Belloubet assured, “It will be necessary to draw all the consequences of this terrorist attack” and announced she had immediately ordered an “inspection” in this central prison, which is, according to her, one of the two most secure French prisons in France.

The anti-terrorist section of the Paris prosecutor’s office has taken up the investigation, and the prosecutor of the Republic of Paris Rémy Heitz is expected in Condé-sur-Sarthe.

This incident raises questions about a radicalized individual’s custody. There are several thousand of them currently in prison. Four hundred and fifty of them are expected to be released by next year.

Syndicate Prison Leader Yoan Karrar, deputy head of the Force Ouvriere (FO) prison guards union, said this incident was expected to occur as it has happened before.

“We feel very angry, very upset. We urged the minister about this situation before, this incident already happened last year in Vendin-le-Vieil. Nothing was done since,” he said.

“We are very worried about those prisoners that are back from Syria and have been already radicalized. We are wondering what to do with them, where to detain them, and how to manage them. To this day we haven’t got any solution,” he added.

5,000 Acts of Violence Every Year

This attack was in the media spotlight in France, but according to the Institute for Justice, it’s just a drop in the ocean. According to Guillaume Jeanson, spokesman for the institute, there are dozens of such attacks happening every week in French prisons.

“I can speak about many, many different examples of these past 10 days. Every day, new weapons are discovered, such as ceramic knives, there is also the trick of setting the cells on fire, waiting for the guards’ arrival, and attack them. This has happened several times in different prisons across France,” he said.

Prison Syndicate Leader
Syndicate Prison Leader Yoan Karar, near the Justice Ministry on March 5 in Paris. (David Vives/NTD)

According to him, terrorist networks such as ISIS as well as terrorist inmates with the most serious crimes push prisoners to commit new attacks against jail staff.

“Violence cases increased from several to a few dozen to almost 5,000 cases per year, so the situation has dramatically worsened. There is a change of behavior in the way these inmates operate. They target to cut the carotid to kill. There are also threats of committing terrorist attacks.”

This is a new problem for French authorities, and as such, the answer from the Justice Ministry was too late. In order to have better monitoring of radicalized prisoners, the Justice Ministry created an Intelligence Unit with the objective to collect information and identify dangerous inmates—a measure that was rejected until then under former socialist Justice Minister Christiane Taubira.

One thousand and five hundred new guards are being recruited by the minister to face the increased attacks. It also announced a new facility inside jails to separate radicalized prisoners from other general population prisoners.

450 Terrorists Soon to Be Released From Jails

About 450 inmates will be released into the community after completing their prison sentences for terrorism-related offenses, according to the Justice Ministry.

“We can see how our efforts in preventing terrorism with rehabilitation programs don’t work. It is clear that there’s a risk to the public if radical prisoners are to be released into the community at some point,” Police Syndicate Leader Michel Thooris said. 

Police Syndicate Leader Michel Thooris poses in front of Eiffel Tower.
Police Syndicate Leader Michel Thooris. (David Vives/NTD)

Another attack took place in January 2018 in a Corsica prison. Two wardens were injured after three prisoners charged at them, at least one of whom was armed with a knife. Both wardens were taken to hospital with one suffering a stab wound to the neck.

Chiolo was recruited in prison by other Islamist inmates and wasn’t a terrorist prior to being taken into custody. This only gives credit to the voices saying that prison is an environment favoring Islamism.

In France, convicted individuals have only one sentence even if there are different charges for several crimes. In 2019, 450 jihadhis will be free after completing their sentences. According to experts, there is little chance these individuals will cease to follow an Islam radical ideology.

“We should consider question as life-sentence jail for radicalized individuals. French courts establish mixed-judgment on prisoners convicted of several crimes instead of adding sentences together as in the U.S. We should add the sentences and keep them in prison forever.