French authorities have launched an inquiry after images were posted online of inmates at a Marseilles prison posing with drugs, money, and cellphones, prompting an angry backlash from guard unions over staff shortages.
French newspaper La Provence reported that the prisoners uploaded selfies to a Facebook page named "MDR o Baumettes" — an apparent abbreviation which translates as "dying of laughter at Les Baumettes," the name of the Marseille prison that they're currently incarcerated in. The page — which quickly amassed 4,800 likes — has since been taken down.
Cell phones are prohibited in French prisons. The pictures also appear to show the inmates smoking cannabis.
Prison officials have said they will act to curb this behaviour immediately.
Philippe Perron, Interregional Director of the Prison Administration (PA) Marseille, told AFP that they had launched an inquiry into the pictures. "We immediately took steps after the discovery of the Facebook page by opening an administrative investigation and referring it to the prosecutor of Marseilles," he said. Perron added that the page had last been closed by its author.
These pictures have highlighted the continuous underfunding in the French prison system.
In a statement, the prison guards' union angrily demanded a reaction from the government. They pointed to staff shortages, which they claim have allowed the prison to be turned into a vacation club.
It isn't the first time such a claim has been made. Staff have previously staged several protests at the Les Baumettes prison, including blocking the entrance in a demonstration against what they say are insufficient staff numbers, leading to increased threats of violence. Almost a year ago, an inmate took the prison's director hostage, according to France 24.
In 2005, a report by the Council of Europe described the "chronic overcrowding," shortage of funding, and lack of a rehabilitation policy evident in French prisons.
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