02:24 GMT +319 February 2018
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    A prison guard open a door during a press visit on October 14, 2015 in the new prison in Valence, southeastern France

    French Prison Unions Suspend Talks With Government Over Disagreements

    © AFP 2018/ PHILIPPE DESMAZES
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - Representatives of major French prison unions broke off the negotiations with the government over the lack of consensus on the penitentiary system’s reforms, the Ufap-Unsa Justice union said in a communique on Tuesday.

    Earlier in the day, French Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet entered another round of negotiations with the country's three major prison unions — CGT, FO and Ufap Unsa. The talks followed Monday’s failed attempts to reach concord, with the unions having accused the authorities of putting forward no specific proposals. The situation is unfolding against a backdrop of continued nationwide strikes of jail guards demanding better pay and measures for protection from radicalized inmates.

    "The FO and CGT unions left the negotiation room. The Ufap-Unsa Justice union stayed for another couple of minutes, seeking to get an answer on the abolition of Article 57. Having received no answer to the key question, [the union] left the room as well," the trade union read.

    Under Article 57 of the French Prisons Act, searches of the convicted must be justified by the presumption of a crime or by the risks that the prisoners’ behavior presents to the safety of persons and maintenance of order in the institution.

    Over the last few days, prison guards have been on strike in more than 100 French prisons, complaining of regular clashes and attacks initiated by inmates, mainly "radicalized" Islamists. There are only some 27,800 prison workers, which is considered by them insufficient to manage 70,000 detainees.

    One of the attacks took place in the High security quarters of Vendin-le-Vieil in northern France on January 11, when Christian Ganczarski, a German Islamist, who mounted a terrorist attack on tourists in Djerba, Tunisia, in 2002, wounded three guards with a knife. Amid the continued strikes, a number of similar attacks have been registered in different regions across the country.

    On Monday, in order to settle the issue, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to renovate facilities and expand them to house an additional 15,000 inmates. French prison unions have rejected the proposals as insufficient, calling for such measures as specialized detention centers, depending on inmates' profiles, special policy regarding dangerous or violent inmates, and increased remuneration, among other things.

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