Magistrates and lawyers are stunned. In reaction to the “surprise” announcement of the Minister of Justice Eric Dupond-Moretti to remove credits for automatic reduction of sentence for prisoners, they consider the measure populist.
The end of this device, little contested since its establishment in 2004, is the most unexpected proposal of the bill “for confidence in the judicial institution” under preparation, before its presentation to the Council of Ministers. half April.
“I want to prioritize the effort”
The argument of the Minister of Justice? It is a question of “putting an end to the hypocrisy” of a system whose sole purpose is “to regulate the prison population, without saying it”. Asked this Wednesday on France Inter, Eric Dupond-Moretti justified: “There are two types of sentence reductions. There are those that we obtain thanks to the effort and there are automatic sentence reductions. L ‘automaticity is made for machines and not for human beings. Me, I want to prioritize effort. I met the judges of the enforcement of sentences (JAP) to discuss this reform, they are ready because this reform is going in the right direction. “
“We are completely overwhelmed,” says Mathilde Valin, member of the national association of judges for the enforcement of sentences (Anjap) and judge in Paris. “It’s a very big surprise for us, we are in shock at this completely unpredictable announcement.”
Passed under the Perben II law in 2004, the system grants each convicted person entering detention – with the exception of those convicted of terrorism – a reduction in sentence: three months the first year, two months the following years, and for sentences of less than one year, seven days per month. These sentence reduction credits are withdrawn in the event of misconduct or incidents in custody. Currently, additional sentence reductions (RSP) can be granted if a convict demonstrates “serious efforts at social rehabilitation”.
The ministry would therefore consider reinstating the reductions in good behavior and merging them with these RSPs.
“We will say that it is a populist measure”
“It values the detainee, it encourages him to learn to read, take care of himself, work”, insisted Eric Dupond-Moretti, deeming “abnormal that a convicted person who decides not to do anything” leaves prison at the same time as the one who makes “all the necessary efforts” to reintegrate. “We will say that it is a populist measure, I say that it is a popular measure”, launched the minister. He must defend it this Thursday morning, during a trip to the Villepinte remand center (Seine-Saint-Denis).
The Keeper of the Seals quickly drew the wrath of professionals in the field. “It is an absolutely populist communication, but also distressing while the reductions of sentences have a vocation; to maintain good order in detention”, laments Amélie Morineau, lawyer and president of the association for the defense of the rights of detainees. . “We are going to ask the JAP to rule on all the credits, with constant means, and without the offers of access to activities, care, work being sufficient, particularly in this period of pandemic.”
With this “populist speech”, Eric Dupond-Moretti “takes the risk of creating a lot of tension in the prisons”, worries for her part Cécile Mamelin, vice-president of the Union Syndicale des Magistrates (USM, majority). These sentence reductions are “a carrot, a hope. Whoever does not understand this does not know the world of prison”.
“And yet, there was an urgent need to act”
The International Prison Observatory (OIP) sees it as an “aberration”, before recalling that Eric Dupond-Moretti had, when he was still a lawyer, signed an open letter to call on Emmanuel Macron to “not return to inflation prison “.
For the OIP, as for the Syndicat de la magistrature (SM, classified on the left), there was however “urgency to act”, while France was condemned in January 2020 by the European Court of Human Rights (CEDH) for its chronic prison overcrowding and its unworthy conditions of detention.
Against the grain, Emmanuel Baudin, secretary general of FO-Penitentiary, believes for his part that “the measure is going in the right direction”. Even if, it will inevitably have an impact on the prison population, he adds.