Opposition deputy Sébastien Nadot (ex-LREM) walks along the fences topped with barbed wire surrounding the imposing ensemble. He then announces to the supervisors posted behind armored glass that he has come to exercise his right of visit, unexpectedly.
Shortly after, a supervisor wearing a protective vest over his blue uniform, “especially against stab wounds”, he explains, opens the metal door of a cell. Intended for two people, the room of about ten square meters, overheated by the sun, accommodates three.
A prison guard highlights the efforts to place “people who get along well” in the overcrowded cells because “in these conditions of promiscuity, certain situations quickly become explosive”.
One of the prisoners is standing, barefoot, on the piece of floor that remains between a mattress on the ground and two bunk beds. He has just been changed cell because in the previous one, things “went badly”, says the guard without further details.
A journalist and an AFP photographer were able to follow the deputy of Haute-Garonne in the remand center, without being able to ask questions to the detainees.
– WC in the cell –
In July 2021, after a visit to Seysses, prison controller Dominique Simonnot described as “unworthy” the conditions of detention in this remand center with some 600 places where more than 1,000 people are locked up.
At the beginning of October, the administrative court had ordered the Minister of Justice to take “as soon as possible” several “emergency measures” to improve the situation.
Some injunctions were very specific: for example, the toilets without doors had to be separated from the rest of the cell.
In the cell of the three detainees, as well as in another, empty, opaque curtains separate the toilets from the bedroom. According to the Directorate of Prison Administration (DAP), the “installation of swing doors” is under study.
Descending to a walk yard, officers recount their struggles with cockroaches and other ‘pests’. The court asks for the “strengthening” of this fight.
Aline, a prisoner’s mother whose first name has been changed at her request, says that her son and two other prisoners live “on top of each other” in a cell “full of cockroaches”.
“It’s in the sheets, in the clothes, everywhere,” she said in a conversation with AFP outside the prison.
Some detainees “insert toilet paper in their ears to prevent these insects from entering them while they sleep”, noted Ms. Simonnot in July 2021.
On the other hand, according to Aline, “the showers are often clogged” and the telephone booths broken down.
At the edge of the promenade courtyard, the space of one and a half meters between the fence and a building with cells is littered with rubbish. According to the agents, they have accumulated in a single day because some prisoners throw their garbage out the window.
An inmate in a yellow t-shirt arrives with a rake to clean up. He is one of the ten “auxiliaries” recruited in the prison, according to the management of the prison administration (DAP), as requested by the court.
As for the walks, they again take place twice a day, assures the DAP.
However, nuance Aline, walks are often canceled without explanation.
For the International Observatory of Prisons (OIP), which also recalls injunctions concerning disabled prisoners or access to care, the court’s decision “is still far from having been fully executed”.
The rights of detainees “are not respected”, regrets the deputy.
These prisoners “have a sentence, but a sentence does not mean that they go to prison”.
The problem, he points out, comes from the system and not from the agents. In Seysses, he met “attentive staff trying to do the best for their prisoners with what they have. But they don’t have what it takes”.