The fact that you are in prison doesn’t mean you lose your human rights. They still have to be observed, even though you are deprived of your liberty. This guide explains your basic human rights in prison, and how they should be guaranteed.

Reasons for imprisonment

You may be placed in prison if:

  • a court has found you guilty of a crime and sentenced you to serve a prison sentence or
  • you are held in detention on remand during your trial and are awaiting the final judgment in your case

The French Criminal Code contains most of the crimes for which imprisonment may be used as a punishment.

About the French Penitentiary Code

The French legislator conducted a reform in 2022, creating the Penitentiary Code. This reform aimed to gather all the laws applicable to the French penitentiary system in a single document. As such, the different legal references about the French Penitentiary system that you may find online, whether from official or unofficial sources, will most likely be outdated. To remedy this situation, the French administration has published a table of concordance between the old and new reference articles.

Imprisonment & Human rights

In human rights, imprisonment and other forms of detention are considered to be a deprivation of liberty. Even though deprived of liberty, a person does not lose his or her human rights while in prison. Prisoners have the right to live a normal life as much as possible.

This means that you can establish friendships, keep in contact with your family, work and study, vote in elections, feel safe and keep yourself healthy. The State has an obligation to ensure this. Therefore, it is responsible for the living conditions, medical care, security and other aspects of life in prison.

About this Guide

This Guide will explain the conditions in which prisoners must be held, how the prison staff are to treat prisoners, the medical treatment prisoners should receive, how they can communicate with the outside world, as well as the type of work, religious and other activities prisoners may get involved in while in prison. It will also explain how prisoners can complain about issues related to their imprisonment. For your rights in detention on remand procedures, read more in the section Detention on remand.

Assess your knowledge

If you wish to use the Guide for learning purposes, the Guide offers you a possibility to assess your knowledge in human rights before or after studying, by completing tests about different themes included in the Guide.

Read more about your rights in prison:


Last updated 06/11/2023