The French justice ministry is being pressed to explain jail go-karting.
‘Shocking’ games inspired by reality TV show at Fresnes prison, south of Paris, are condemned by a minister.
France’s justice ministry is under pressure to explain why it approved reality-show-inspired games at the country’s second largest prison.
The political squabble erupted after a 25-minute video of Fresnes jail inmates participating in go-karting and other challenges in the prison courtyard surfaced on YouTube. Kohlantess was a play on Les aventuriers de Koh-Lanta, a French reality TV show based on the Survivor format.
The film was described as “shocking” by the justice minister, Éric Dupond-Moretti, who ordered an internal investigation despite the fact that his ministry’s communications department had approved the project and viewed the film before it was broadcast to ensure there were no security concerns.
“The fight against recidivism involves rehabilitating [prisoners], not go-karting,” Dupond-Moretti tweeted.
The event and film’s release were approved at the “highest level” of the ministry, according to Le Figaro, but officials told the paper: “What we were presented with didn’t mention go-karting; it talked of sporting challenges, skipping ropes,” an unnamed staff member said.
The event is also thought to have been sanctioned by the French prison authorities.
Jimmy Delliste, the prison governor at Fresnes, south of Paris, defended the event saying it was a “fraternal occasion” and thanked the organisers. The games raised €1,700 for charity, he said.
Éric Ciotti of the centre-right opposition party Les Républicains was among the most outspoken in his condemnation. “Our prisons are not summer camps where prisoners and guards form friendships,” he said.
“There is some hypocrisy on the part of the minister… He was either informed or he was not. He cannot request an investigation if his office was informed. The minister must explain himself. “Many French people and victims have been shocked by these images,” Ciotti told BFMTV. “Behind every prisoner is a victim, and it is those victims that I am thinking about.”
Fresnes was built at the end of the nineteenth century for approximately 1,700 prisoners. It is now thought to house over 2,000 men and 100 women.
During Germany’s occupation of France during WWII, the Nazis took over the men’s wing and tortured and executed members of the French resistance and British intelligence operatives. After being wrongfully arrested for theft in 1949, American writer James Baldwin was detained at Fresnes.
According to a French prison official, none of those participating in the games had been convicted of murder or rape, and the event had not cost taxpayers “a penny.”
“Obviously, as far as we were concerned, everything was approved,” Enzo Angelo Santo, an independent producer who worked on the video, told BFMTV. We would never have opposed the Ministry of Justice.”
Djibril Dramé, a local, is said to have organized several similar games in Fresnes for several years and set up a sports competition between police and young people in June. According to French media, it was sponsored by a halal fast food chain, Big M, and an online sports app, Omada.