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France lawmakers adopt measure to reduce prison overcrowding

[JURIST] The French Senate [official website, in French] adopted a law [materials, in French] Thursday calling for increased use of probation and other measures to reduce prison overcrowding. France's prison system has become increasingly overcrowded in past years, and it reportedly does little to discourage reoffending. The population of these prisons has grown by a third over the past decade to 70,000 due to harsh sentencing laws adopted under former president Nicolas Sarkozy [BBC profile]. The new legislation [Reuters report] will allow judges to decide whether to give out probation or prison time to those criminals sentenced to less than five years. The law was criticized by some who claim that the move was proof that President Francois Hollande was soft on crime.

Prison overcrowding is a common problem across the globe. Last August the Italian Senate approved a measure [JURIST report] to ease some of the worst prison overcrowding in Europe by cutting pre-trial detentions and using alternative punishments for minor offenses. The move came after the European Court of Human Rights ordered Italy to address the problem [JURIST report] within a year. In August 2012 the Colombian Ministry of Justice announced a new initiative [JURIST report] to solve the problem of overcrowding in the nation's prisons. In June 2012 UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang urged the government of Malawi [JURIST report] to address the problem of prison overcrowding and improve the human rights condition in the country. In April 2012 South Africa announced that it will issue pardons [JURIST report] to 35,000 offenders in order to ease prison overcrowding

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