France has announced a controversial plan to build 33 new prisons, arguing that current overcrowded jails were radicalizing prisoners kept together with terrorists.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Thursday nine new institutions and other extra facilities will be constructed to add more than 5,000 cells to the prison system in the first phase of the expansion plan.
“The situation is critical, especially in the short-term prisons (for people sentenced to two years or less), where overpopulation is 140 percent,” he said.
He said around 15,000 people were suspected of having become “radicalized” in France, adding more innocent people were feared to be killed in potential terrorist attacks.
France has been in a state of emergency since last November, when attacks claimed by Daesh terrorists at some six different venues in and around Paris left 130 people dead and over 350 others injured.
Another deadly attack was carried out as recently as July this year, when a man believed to have been tied to Daesh drove a truck into people celebrating in Nice, killing at least 84 people.
France, along with other Western countries, supports militant groups fighting to topple the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
Many hardened militants hail from France itself and return home with an agenda to hit back at the heart of Europe.
Muslims being targeted?
French media and politicians constantly claim that some of the worst recent attacks in the country have been committed by people “radicalized” in jails.
At least 60 percent of Frances’s prison inmates are Muslims, who account only for eight percent of the country's population.
Hence, the planned expansion of jails unveiled by Prime Minster Valls on Thursday is feared to ultimately target Muslims.
Activists and Muslim organizations blame France’s social policies for the disproportionate number of Muslims in prisons.
They argue that the problem is rooted in the government’s policies to isolate Muslims in the country, which is believed to have the largest population of Muslims in Western Europe.
As a result of such policies, activists say, Muslims have been forced to move to impoverished suburbs, with substandard schools, insufficient housing and high unemployment.