Prison
Prison

Hundreds of prison guards on Wednesday blocked access to several security facilities in French cities to protest unsecure working conditions, a day after a radicalized detainee stabbed two officers.

Outside Conde-sur-Sarthe prison, in northwestern France, guards had torched tyres and palettes to block entrance to the jail where two of their colleagues were wounded in a knife attack on Tuesday. “There are 130 people outside, everything is blocked and nobody can get in,” Emmanuel Guimaraes, national delegate of FO union (Force Ouvriere) was quoted as saying by local media. “It’s an unlimited movement, the emotion is very strong because it’s been said for a long time that it’s going to happen,” he added.

Several other prisons were also hit by blockades or walkouts by guards earlier in the day. Among the 188 jails, 18 participated in Wednesday’s movement, according to FO, France’s third largest trade union. “The (protest’s) call was late. The real blockages should take place tomorrow, but already, what is happening this morning reflects the harshness of the movement that is coming,” said Yoann Karar, deputy secretary general of FO-Penitentiary.

Prison staff are demanding improved working conditions after a fresh attack by a detainee convicted of publicly condoning terrorism and radicalization. On Tuesday morning, Michael Chiolo, serving a 30-year sentence for armed robbery and murder, had wounded two guards before he was hidden in the family unit with his wife. According to Paris prosecutor Remy Heitz, he wanted to revenge for Cherif Chekatt, the shooter who killed several people in Strasbourg Christmas market on Dec. 11, 2018.

Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet, denounced a “cowardly terrorist attack,” saying that an investigation was under way into how Chiolo’s companion was able to smuggle a ceramic kitchen knife into the prison in order “to take the necessary measures.” In an interview with RMC radio, the minister added 5,000 prisoners were convicted on terrorism charges while 1,200 others were radicalized while serving their sentences in jail. “We have not underestimated that … Obviously, there are still some failures and I’m here to fix them,” she pledged.

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