Bloomberg News

Sarkozy Says France Needs 20,000 Additional Prison Places

January 26, 2012

Jan. 26 (Bloomberg) -- France needs to build 20,000 more prison places to be able to carry out sentences, President Nicolas Sarkozy said.

“How can we explain that 100,000 prison sentences have never been carried out?” he said, speaking in a courthouse in the eastern city of Dijon. “Without those extra 20,000 places, how can the justice system function normally?”

Sarkozy, who faces re-election in April, used much of his speech to assure members of France’s legal professions that the justice system has become more independent during his five years in office and that he has given them more resources. French newspapers such as Le Monde have said his government has put pressure on investigative magistrates involved in high-profile political cases, while some judges have protested the government’s plans to close courts in small towns.

Sarkozy said that in 2008 he had ended the system where the president was also the head of the administrative body that selected judges.

“I am the president that put an end to 65 years of presidency of this institution,” he said.

Sarkozy said that in the past five years the justice-system budget has risen 20 percent to 7.4 billion euros ($9.6 billion), and that 450 judges and 1,200 clerks have been hired.

“It was not easy in the midst of an economic crisis without precedent, but I did it because the justice system is an absolute priority,” he said.

--Editors: James Hertling, Andrew Atkinson

To contact the reporter on this story: Gregory Viscusi in Paris at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

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