The first prison uprising at the high-security prison of Clairvaux took place 8 February 2003. A group of prisoners pillaged and destroyed Building A in order to protest against the sanctions inflicted against two of them. The rioters resisted seven hours of attacks by the CRS (anti-riot police) and mobile police. The building, now unrecognisable was emptied of its tumultuous occupants, who were subsequently transferred to “jails” (prison for serving sentences of less than two years). A number of them were placed in solitary confinement, a form of imprisonment synonymous with psychological torture: being alone in a cell and during walks, the prisoner is deprived of human contact.
Around the same time, Perben, the minister of justice, announced the creation of the ERIS: a team of highly trained prison guards, similar to the GIGN (an elite group of highly-trained police), and experts in beating prisoners. Their task: beatings, humiliations, terror. They barge into cells hooded, which allows them to preserve their precious anonymity….
A second prison uprising took place 16 April 2003. This time, labor workshops in Building B were set on fire, mainly to protest against the strict imposition of the closing of cell doors during the day, which reduces the opportunities prisoners have to meet with each other, and against the shameful conditions of visiting hours with family members and close ones. Following the intervention of the forces of order many prisoners were placed in “the hole” (mitard) or transferred to jails, often finding themselves in solitary confinement. Twelve prisoners, more or less picked at random, were subsequently charged with degradation of public property and violence.
Judged at the first hearing, in March 2004, at the correctional court of Troyes, eleven of the twelve prisoners left the courtroom in order to protest the performance of so-called ‘justice’ imposed upon them, along with seventy supporters in the courtroom. As we know, justice does not function the same for all, seeing that “either one is powerful or pitiful,” justice thus became its caricature, with nonexistent preliminary investigation. The lawyers requested once again the report, in order to obtain a reiteration of the events and a real preliminary investigation of the case.
Pascal Brozzoni, who assumes responsibility of his actions, had seven more years added to his sentence. Some prisoners have been in part, even entirely released of responsibility, but ten prisoners received additions to their sentences ranging from eighteen months to five years. The prisoners in solidarity decided to ask for an appeal in order to permit that all the innocents be acquitted and to finally have a “say”… hoping to put the prison system in general, and Clairvaux, in particular, on trial!
The “economically liberal” politics carried out throughout Europe by governments, on the right and on the left (lowering salaries, attacks on social security and pension plans, worsening of labour conditions, etc.) accompanied by oppressive political practices that aim to spread terror in the proletariat.
Police sweeps have been organised in popular neighbourhoods where the police act like an occupying power; the official age one can be held responsible in the justice system has been lowered to ten years and 13 year-olds can now be incarcerated; tribunals have been set up in the courtyards of subsidized housing in order to expedite judicial procedures. Cops are equipped with arms of war et with flash-balls. Cops and security guards for now on have the right to search whomever they see fit. Tribunals are installed for those who arrive in France; the period an illegal immigrant can be held in detention is extended to 32 days. Picket lines are repressed, the occupation of premises and all forms of self-organized struggle are criminalized. The list of the offensive is long.
Here, we are not talking about the measures themselves, but of a totalitarian social logic on the part of the State: a logic that translates into a plan for the construction of 32 new prisons, 95 educative centers (prisons for minors), of seven immigrant detention centers. And the old and new establishments will have to fill themselves.
The conditions of incarceration are becoming more and more intolerable: questioning the standards established by past struggles (visiting hours without the phone, staying close to one’s family), overpopulation in jails, prisoners released on parole becoming more rare, the closing of cell doors in prisons for long sentences (high and medium security prisons). This last measure signifies that the contacts between prisoners are reduced to a strict minimum… and this lasts for ten years, fifteen years. Sometimes longer…
We are talking about a political strategy of an psychological annihilation, and the prisoners have no choice but to fight against it.
Let’s support this revolt! Attend the trial of appeal at Reims where the prosecuted prisoners of the burning down of the prison of Clairvaux are indicted. And along with the prisoners’ movements, we demand:
1- the immediate liberation of minors, sick prisoners, those who have become mentally troubled, and illegal immigrants;
2- the automatic remission of sentences as well as systematic release on parole, and the pardoning and re-examination of sentences;
3- the improvement of conditions of prisoners by the re-opening of cell doors in the high-security prisons, the abolition of solitary confinement/ “the hole”, the ERIS and body searches;
4- proper conditions of visiting hours and to stay in proximity to one’s family members and close ones, in order to retain close ties with them;
5- to abandon the project of the construction of new prisons, particularly high-security penitentiaries.
By Pascal Brozzoni
First of all, and certainly to the regret of some, what took place the 16th of April 2003 at the high-security prison of Clairvaux was not an uprising, not even the dawning of the “big night”… Nor was it premeditation, nor was there any dialogue, nor organization. A motive? Well…. It’s simple, it’s just the satisfaction to see a prison that’s…. And also, there was no coincidence: the attitude of Danet (the prison’s ward) and the entire clique of the administration had been there for too long, we basically needed an explicit way to give them back what they deserve.
The administration had, for example, recently changed the regulations regarding the visiting hours to their close ones, without informing the prisoners in any other way but a pitiful poster to which no one had paid attention. What needed to happen happened: the refusal of visiting hours for families who travel hundreds of kilometres to visit their loved ones in prison and for whom the ten unfortunate minutes of being late become fatal for them. Those who refuse families their visiting hours really do exist and are cowards. Following some inmates’ protests, as soon as the next day, the administration gave them a piece of paper informing them of the change in regulation… But the prisoner and his/her family had already been made the fool of, and admitted fault will not be forgiven.
During this time, and under the fallacious pretence of the uprising of Building A of February 2003, the visiting hours no longer had heating facilities nor were they cleaned… forcing us to meet with our close ones in conditions very… well, no need to give details here!
And imprisonment? The same arrogance of the administration continued! For example, it had already been three years that the prisoners complained of the fact that there was only one telephone per 90 inmates, and two washing machines (constantly out of order) for 150 inmates, and that the price for the exterior cafeteria were outrageous… At every motive of discontent, the administration always responded by turning the other way… In short, at the silence and cowardness of these fools one must respond!
There are thus thousands of reasons to be sick of being treated like an idiot, so when the 16th of April 2003 came, I showed them the bill: burning down workshops… It seems that the damages amount to over four million euros… I was, with twelve other innocent inmates immediately transferred. Direct to the hole of jails in the Parisian region (Fleury, Osny, Fresnes, Bois d’Arcy) or in the east (Varennes le Grand, Besançon). Others were placed in (solitary confinement punishment) at Clairvaux, then in solitary confinement, before being transferred to Fresnes. All these great people were thus assigned to a new prison at the beginning of September…
Following this beautiful day, or rather this fire, obviously, no more work for the prisoners and also, even a prisoner dared to say in l’Envolée: “the ambiance was no longer there… They reframed the prison like a high-security quarter…it’s not convincing, it’s really whatever..” What a beautiful story!
So, that it remains clear, we did not come to the prison for its ambiance, and when someone complains that they had lost their jobs, well there, let’s just say that we are not here to work! No joke!
We don’t give a #!@# about working! We’re in jail, and some want to follow the rules of the penitentiary and of justice: behave, pay one’s debt to society and everything will be better? Yeah right! No compromise is possible, and even those who collaborate (we’ve seen the depositions, hah hah!) are never well paid by the justice system in return… Whoever can understand… Instead of thinking about your job, it would be better to be fighting (or support those who are in struggle!) so that justice respects its own laws, notably: half-sentences, half pardons… for everyone.
In all the struggles in prison, whether that be for “free” (of what, actually?) visiting hours, the television, access to the telephone, …for every improvement of the living conditions of inmates and for the accommodations that the inmates’ close ones have benefited from, for all that, there had been deaths, as well as additional prison sentences distributed to the few who dared fight.
What’s been acquired in the uprisings, collective movements…from ’74 to the early 80s is today in the process of disappearing and nobody will fight in our place, and certainly not those who self-proclaim as the representatives of inmates and of their close ones… Nothing was offered, everything was taken… And everything rests to be taken!
To return to the judiciary consequences of 16 April 2003, one has to first say that there were no preliminary investigation: meaning that the police officers came to interrogate us between mid-June and the beginning of July, but that nobody saw the examining magistrate. It is in receiving, at the extreme limit of ten legal days, the convocation for the hearing of 15 December that we each discovered our counts of indictment. Moreover, it’s better to say that on this issue they didn’t really bother to take a look at things … it was pretty much the same for everybody.
To tell you how many of these indictments are phoney concerning what the others were charged with: one of them had continued working at the workshop of Clairvaux, following which he had even been nominated to other positions… until they made him pay for his participation in a movement of protestations last November by charging him with this. They’ve got a nerve! Awful!
So, the 15th of last December, we all came by the hearing and we succeeded in pushing back the trial until March 9th. It doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a grand masquerade…So, the 9th of March, we will do it over again! I will tell Danet and his acolytes, to the procurator, to the judge, to those who would really like to listen… everything I’m saying now, and if I don’t hide the reasons for which I set everything on fire, at least the Penitentiary will also have to respond to its acts.
Even if the administration at Clairvaux considers days spent in the hole, months added back to laxed sentences, transfers that further distance inmates from their families… that all this are mere “blemishes”… I would not accept these “blemishes”; I also wouldn’t accept it that those who are innocent have years added to their sentences.
So, better that I ask to be committed for trial according to the charges, instead of there being a dozen on trial, I would be by myself… this would only be better, I’d like to have the place to myself!!
I assume what I did, better that I take the responsibility for it. That will perturb the talkers, those who always want to be responsible, but never guilty. So yes, responsible, guilty and proud of my acts.
Hoping that the message has been clear: the demands of transfer of inmates need to be taken care of immediately and effectively. It’s out of the question that we rest rotting in jail when it’s been months that we want to leave… And that the penitentiary administration respects our families…
I’m going to take advantage of this moment to send a warm hello to those who were present at the hearing on the 15th of last December and/or to those who will come next March 9th to show solidarity with the indicted innocent and with myself, and in general with the struggle of prisoners and their families.
High-security prison of Moulins, February 2004
All prisoners transferred following the burning down of the prison or who were indicted were all further separated from their close ones and the conditions of their imprisonment worsened. “Collateral Damages” the Administration says… But some are still in solitary confinement, others continue to be held in jails for those serving short sentences.
Regarding Pascal Brozzoni, the principal accused for the fire at the prison of Clairvaux, the day following the trial March 9, he had been transferred from solitary confinement at the prison of Moulins to a new jail in Rouen (Normandie). Today, Pascal does not belong in a jail: as someone with a long sentence, he should stay incarcerated in a prison, with a more favourable type of detention (mainly longer visiting hours, access to the telephone). And he also does not belong in Rouen, farther away from his close ones.
This transfer belongs to a long series of disciplinary measures taken up in reaction to his position assuming responsibility during the trial and his participating in a collective movement of prisoners at the beginning of March at the prison of Moulins, for which he had already spent ten days in the hole. This measure must be understood in the general context of repression which affects the prisoners who have participated in a collective movement at Moulins since the beginning of 2004: transfers (and thus further distanced from close ones) of Basque prisoners whose companions revolted against the exceptional measures taken during their visiting hours, Laurent Jacqua placed in solitary confinement for over a month, and most recently, transfers and beatings of Jean-Marc Rouillan and two other prisoners.
The mobilisation of the first trial was the result of a collective effort of different groups, individuals, locally (at Troyes) and throughout France.
If at the first two hearings, the courtroom was filled with support from the prisoners, the last day, the prison guard’s union had tried to fill the room…
The people present in solidarity with the prisoners received their own repression as well: having been held in police custody suspected of tagging and putting up posters of support; police intervention (early in the morning) of a place for debates and concerts at Troyes where some of the comrades were staying…
The city of Troyes was pretty covered with tags and posters of solidarity—these same posters were seen at Paris –, anti-carceral radio shows, different militant newspapers, etc. did a good job informing people of the trial and what was at stake. And there were several articles, surprisingly good, on the indicted in the local national presses.
Today, some individuals, some collectives, etc. prepare the mobilisation for the hearing of the appeal whose date is TBA (surely around September 2004) in the city of Reims (located approximately 120 km northeast of Paris).
For more information:
MWebsite : http://vivelesmutins.freeservers.com (includes current events of prisoner movements, archives of photos and texts of prison uprisings)
M Pamphlets (price sliding scale, sent on request: email@example.com):
“The file René Danet, cited in 1974 in the young Patrick Mirval case at the jail of Fleury-Mérogis” (twenty pages)
“The fire of the workshops at the prison of Clairvaux: events, trial, mobilisation. A complete file!”
Compilation of solidarity self-producted by AKTION-K, with Division Ruines, Nocif, Craft, Disxyouth Army, Action Directe, No Time to Lose, Smell Bad, Bush Degout, Fred Pourris, Misspent Youth… price sliding scale. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE 16TH OF APRIL 2003, SOME PRISONERS SET FIRE TO THE WORKSHOPS OF THE PRISON OF CLAIRVAUX (AUBE), MAINLY IN PROTEST AGAINST THE CLOSING OF CELL DOORS DURING THE DAY AND THE CONDITIONS DURING VISITING HOURS.
AS THE ONLY RESPONSE :
TWELVE INDICTED PRISONERS.
THE FRENCH STATE IGNORES THE DEMANDS OF PRISONERS!
Let’s all be at REIMS at their Trial of Appeal!
Along with the movements of prisoners, we demand:
MTo be automatically released on parole!
MNo more ERIS (anti-uprising hooded prison guards)
MThe abolition of solitary confinement and the hole!
MThe proximity of family members and affinities!
MPut a stop to the construction of new prisons!