Unrest likely to grow at Noumea's "inhumane" jail | Pacific Beat

Unrest likely to grow at Noumea's "inhumane" jail

Unrest likely to grow at Noumea's "inhumane" jail

Updated 9 August 2012, 14:58 AEST

A lawyer representing prisoners in a New Caledonian jail declared unfit for human occupation says he fears violence may erupt unless France does something quickly to ease conditions.

Laurent Aguila says already prisoners have protested by setting mattresses on fire.

A French judge has ordered the French state to pay compensation to at least 30 men at the Camp Est prison for detaining them in overcrowded, cockroach-infested cells.

Mr Aguila has told Brian Abbott that the proposed seven year wait for a new jail to be built is unacceptable and something must be done far more quickly.

Presenter: Brian Abbott

Speaker:  Laurent Aguila, lawyer, New Caledonia

AGUILA: As you know we have 30 men and they win against France, and they win money, not only for money but they win against France and now we have 60 new men and surely after we will have about maybe 50 or 100, maybe all the men in jail want to go and fight against France, because the conditions are inhumane and the treatment is very bad and in the last two days they set fire in jail but because nobody can accept what happened. You have to know that the Minister of Justice in France, she's a woman from Guadalope, she cannot understand what happened and she understands why the men are very, very angry against France. And it's why the judge of the Administrative Tribunal in New Caledonia give compensation for these men because it's unacceptable, we can't accept what happened in the jail in New Caledonia, it's exactly like 100  years ago.

ABBOTT: How can you force France to do something about that jail, to immediately begin rebuilding?
AGUILA: We can't force France, that's the problem. Yes we can with money, like many things in life when they don't pay those things saying blah, blah, blah, but they do nothing, and only system to force France is to ask for money. Now they have to pay six million I think, in maybe US dollars it's not a lot of money, but if every month we go with 60 men from jail, and next month 60 again, maybe when they pay they will do something.
ABBOTT: How serious is the fire in the jail? You say the men are angry, they've set parts of it on fire, how badly damaged is it?
AGUILA: No, it's not badly damaged, just some mattresses. But it's not like that, because normally the Kanak men in New Caledonia are very passive, like the Aboriginals in Australia and they are very passive, they are very sweet, and if they set a few fires in jail, it's only an alert, it will become maybe more than that in some days. I'm very afraid about that, because now they know it's illegal, they know that France has done something very, very illegal. I'm very afraid that in some weeks it will become very different.
ABBOTT: How long do you think before the French government will act? Will it take a major disaster in the jail with a fire?
AGUILA: Yeah, yeah, I can tell you that in the next year they said they start  a new building and in seven years it will be finished ok and will be a very fine and lovely new jail. But seven years, imagine it's not possible. I hope that in some weeks the government will improvise, they will have an idea to do something better, maybe we can do some very light (temporary) building for some years, and we can build another jail in another place, a new jail in seven years. And now and tomorrow we need immediately to do some normal jail, all they don't go to jail. But we have no option, it's not possible to stay and to keep six men in 10 square metres, like dogs, like animals, it's not possible.
ABBOTT: Would you like to see an amnesty for some of the prisoners in that jail, that they be released by authorities?
AGUILA: Now it's up to the judges don't send the men to jail first. I think the all the judges for small crimes, not big crimes of course, but small infractions they won't send to jail, we have some electronic tags, we have many options for not sending them to jail. And I think of course that maybe they will release some people maybe, and the Minister of Justice in France, she upheld this that now we have to think about this option of releasing of men because of the jail.

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