At the women’s prison, a new neighborhood for radicalized inmates

The establishment is one of a kind. Located in the heart of the city, just behind the train station, the Rennes women’s prison is the only establishment in France to accommodate only inmates, mainly women sentenced to long sentences. For the past week, the prison, which currently has 206 inmates, has also housed the first district for the treatment of radicalization (QPR) for women, “a first in France and in Europe”, according to director Véronique Sousset. Today, six in number for men, these QPRs had emerged after the shock of the January 2015 attacks. Faced with the challenge of radicalization in prison, the Government then wished for specific support for radicalized prisoners with, as such, objective of “disengaging” them from Islamist violence and “reintegrating” them.

The Rennes penitentiary center for women is the only penitentiary establishment exclusively reserved for women in France. – J. Gicquel / 20 Minutes

At the Rennes women’s prison, “the doctrine will be the same,” says Véronique Sousset. “We are not going to deradicalize which is a fantasy,” she says. The objective is to disengage these women from violent acts and to put them back on the path to citizenship ”. Three women, all convicted of terrorism offenses, are currently being accommodated in this new neighborhood in the old remand center. Three new inmates will join them by the end of the month and sixteen more will finally follow by the end of the year.

“Adapted security and social support”

Once the work is completed, by 2023 or 2024, it will be able to accommodate 29 detainees, some of whom are returning from Syria. “This is a large-scale project that has ambitions for this establishment”, welcomes its director, referring to “the know-how and the tradition” of the prison which has already had to manage terrorist detainees who are members of ETA. .

The district will eventually be able to accommodate 29 radicalized inmates.
The district will eventually be able to accommodate 29 radicalized inmates. – JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER / AFP

In this sealed wing of the other neighborhoods to avoid any proselytism, radicalized women will be subject to special surveillance by staff, who have undergone specific three-week training. “But this is not an improved isolation neighborhood,” warns Véronique Sousset. The QPR combines appropriate security and social support ”. In each of the 11 m² cells that make up this unit, bars have been added to the latticed windows and the furniture sealed.

“To instill in them a doubt about their belief”

Away from other prisoners, they will have access, in accordance with common law, to visiting rooms and family living units and will be able to walk in small groups in a dedicated courtyard. They will also follow a special program combining sports activities, workshops on the role of women or work on self-esteem. Meetings with religious mediators are also planned to “instill in them a doubt about their belief and what we have been able to make them believe”, underlines Ismaël Righi-Belhouari, deputy head of the anti-violence mission. violent radicalization.

Throughout the stay, which is renewable for six months, a commission will be responsible for evaluating the personality of these detainees in order to see if the work of “disengagement” has borne fruit and if a return to ordinary detention is possible. . “We observe in the QPRs for men that it takes an average of eighteen months for them to be reassigned”, emphasizes Véronique Sousset.

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