French Prison Guards Strike; Inmates Protest
PARIS (AP) _ Guards at more than 100 prisons went on strike Saturday, a day after a guard and inmate were killed during a breakout from a maximum-security facility.
Guards completely walked off duty at 45 prisons. At other prisons, they refused all contact with inmates other than providing meals. The job actions affected 110 of France’s 182 prisons.
Inmates protested at several prisons, where visits, walks and showers were canceled because of the strike.
About 2,800 riot police were dispatched to maintain order, and in some cases were called on to serve meals in place of regular prison staff.
Justice Minister Michel Vauzelle ordered the guards back on the job and threatened strikers with unspecified disciplinary action if they refused.
The prison system has 54,800 inmates and about 15,000 guards.
At Nimes in southern France, prisoners blocked doors, set small fires and trashed offices to protest the cutoff of visits. Police used tear gas and quelled the disturbance by late afternoon.
Inmate sit-ins were reported in a dozen prisons, but were under control by evening.
The deaths Friday came in a shootout during an escape by eight prisoners. Another guard and a highway toll collector were taken hostage but freed unharmed Saturday, police said.
It was the first successful escape from the Clairvaux prison, 100 miles southeast of Paris, and followed a month of unrest at prisons.
Last month, guards across France went on strike for a week after an inmate killed a guard at Rouen, northwest of Paris. The government pledged to hire 700 new correctional officers nationwide.
Earlier this week, one inmate escaped and another was killed in separate incidents using hijacked helicopters.