The Remand Prison of Monaco
Director: Mr. Jean-Yves Gambarini
Assistant Director: Mr. Olivier Richaud
Chief Warder: Mr. Alain Marge
Monaco's penitentiary system has had a long history and its depiction is far from being devoid of interest. Today, there is a regulatory framework governing penitentiary activities in Monaco. The laws regulating the organisation and operation of the prison have been fully overhauled.
Although there is little information available on Monaco's prisons before 1789, it is likely that they were located directly within the Prince's Palace, as indicated in a treasury document from 1726 and corroborated by numerous other historical records.
In 1792, the Principality, connected to France, was engaged in disputes on all fronts and had to house the prisoners of war. An official record dated 4 Ventôse Year VIII of the French Republic (23 February 1800) issued by the military commander of Monaco noted the deplorable state of six apartments within the Palace that served as a prison.
The Royal Family returned to Monaco in 1815 and regained possession of the Palace. The various offices that were set up in the Palace illegitimately during the French Revolution were removed. The Principality had to face the broader issue of how to set up a judicial system and ensure public order. In a first attempt at reforming the prison system, Prince Honoré V decided to make use of former warehouses. But these facilities proved to be insufficient and unsuited to the needs of a prison.
Around 1865, the decision was made to house the prison in a large underground chamber underneath the St. Martin Gardens. This area, measuring 46 m long by 9 m wide and 6 m high, was part of the fortifications built in the early 17th century by Prince Antoine I, near the Fort that bears His name. Designed to house the population and the military in case of attack, it also had the advantage of being equipped with a large-capacity water tank.
In the 19th century, the Mayor was responsible for policing the prison, under the oversight of the Governor-General and the Advocate-General (1).
In 1897, responsibility for the prison was transferred exclusively to the Governor-General. It remained under the authority of the executive branch for almost a century, with control being passed to the Ministry of Interior in 1955.
The situation changed with Sovereign Ordinance No. 9749 of 9 March 1990, which put administration of the correctional system under the authority of the Secretary of Justice. Following in the example of many other European countries, the enforcement of sentences now falls entirely under the responsibility of Monaco's judicial branch.
(1) The former names for the Minister State and the Public Prosecutor, respectively.
While Monaco's prisons have remained on the same site, its appearance, inside and out, has been significantly modified over time. In recent years, the building that houses the prison, now known as the Remand Prison (“Maison d'Arrêt”), has undergone major upgrades.
Beginning in 1986, the Government of the Principality decided to renovate and to expand the Remand Prison. Once this work was complete in 1988, the facilities had the capacity to house 90 inmates, divided between three cellblocks: one for men, one for women and one for juveniles.
A new construction project was approved in 2000 in order to create an administrative area on three floors comprising 1200 sq m. This project, initiated by the Sovereign Prince of Monaco and implemented by the government, improved the working and prison conditions within the Remand Prison while ensuring that the building was seamlessly integrated within the protected area of Monaco-Ville.
Evolution of the prison population
When looking at the prison's records, three very different phases stand out:
- 1886 to World War I
At the end of the 19th century, the number of inmates was relatively high due to the economic growth of the Principality and, especially, of the founding of Monte Carlo, which attracted a wide variety of profit-seekers seeking easy money. From this period on, foreigners began to comprise a significant percentage of the prison population. For instance, the registry of arrests for the year 1900 documents 14 different nationalities. The number of people in prison dropped significantly as Europe mobilized for World War I.
- 1919 to 1960
This period was marked by a net drop in the number of inmates in relation to the previous period, despite a substantial increase from 1926 to 1936 and immediately following World War II. This increase was the result of the socio-economic environment and historical circumstances of these two periods.
- 1960 to 2004
This was a time of change, during which the Remand Prison was at times required to house more than two hundred inmates during a single year (215 inmates admitted and recorded in the registry of arrests for the year 1983).
Also, it appears that the crimes related to most of these incarcerations were changing in relation to prior periods. For instance, drug-related violations and “white-collar crime” rose significantly during this period. Regarding the nationality of the inmates, there was a clear trend toward greater diversity. In 1984, for example, 40% of the entire prison population represented citizens of countries other than Monaco or France.
- 2004 to 2012
A change is obvious in the prison population, 50% of which is now made up of foreigners who are neither French nor Monegasque in nationality.
In addition, there has been a sharp increase in the number of juvenile inmates (e.g. 17 admitted in 2011) as well as in the number of inmates from Eastern Europe (21% of all arrests in 2011).
Despite an increase in the number of juvenile inmates, a relatively calm atmosphere prevails in the detention centre, with inmates tolerating their incarceration in a rather “tranquil” manner. A partnership with the Department of Education, Youth and Sport was formed in 2011 to allow juveniles to continue their education and various related activities
Unlike previous years, it is difficult to categorize the crimes committed during this period, although 25% of arrests were for driving under the influence of alcohol, 30% for theft and 20% for financial crimes.
The establishment and its operations
The Remand Prison is divided into two separate areas, one for administration purposes and the other for detention.
The penitentiary administration area
This area consists of various administrative offices, restrooms and utility rooms, including the offices of the director and his secretary, the archives and the criminal registrar, i.e. the office in charge of handling the administrative matters related to the inmates. All inmates admitted and discharged meet with the registrar's staff in order to take care of various formalities related to their arrest or release.
The detention area
This area includes:
- Four cellblocks: one for women, one for juveniles and two for men located on two different floors. Each cell block is made up of a hallway flanked by the cells (2)
- Various internal and external surveillance points
- Four open visiting areas, and one visiting area with partitions for the inmates' families and friends
- Windowless visiting areas for lawyers, social workers, clergy, and diplomatic and consular officials
- A chapel
- A prison yard (3)
- A kitchen
- A gym (4)
- A weight room
- Three laundry rooms (lower men's block, upper men's block, and women's block)
- A library that also serves as a computer room
- Showers (5)
- A classroom that also serves as a computer room
(2) The cells meet specific requirements for comfort, hygiene and security, as set forth in Decree No. 2005-8 by the Secretary of Justice, dated 3 June 2005 (l’arrêté du directeur des services judiciaires n° 2005-8 du 3 juin 2005).
(3) Two walks per day; a morning walk is required.
(4) Three fitness sessions per week, led by a professional trainer.
(5) Each inmate may take two showers per day.
In terms of staff, the Remand Prison is managed by a director and an assistant director, who fall under the authority of the Secretary of Justice. The director and assistant director provide constant oversight, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. They reside on site.
Aside from the director and assistant director, prison staff includes:
- Female and male warders: overseen by a chief warder, junior warders and team leader warders work in two twelve-hour shifts both during the day and at night
- Administrative and technical personnel (shopkeeper, kitchen staff, technician, housekeeper)
- A licensed physician who coordinates the activities of the technical/medical facilities
- A specialised nurse
In addition, the following professionals have been contracted to provide services to the Remand Prison:
- A dentist, who provides services in a dental office set up in the detention area
- A team of psychiatrists responsible for the psychological monitoring of the inmates
- A psychologist
- A hairdresser
Furthermore, the social worker from the Department of Justice has weekly office hours and meets with all inmates who wish to meet.
The detention centre is regularly visited by the Secretary of Justice, the Public Prosecutor, the examining judge and the guardianship judge.
When inmates arrive at the Remand Prison, they are allowed, by the relevant judicial authority, to phone their family for free to notify them of the arrest.
Inmates who have received a final sentence may make phone calls, at their own expense, one every two weeks, depending on availability, with the authorization and under the supervision of the director of the detention centre. Other inmates are also entitled to this right, subject to the approval of the relevant judicial authority.
All telephone communication from the exterior to inmates is strictly prohibited, regardless of their criminal status. The telephone numbers of Monegasque or foreign government or judicial authorities are not authorized. Inmates are also not allowed to call lawyers or the media, whether domestic or international.
Telephone cards may be purchased from the canteen.
Judicial decree no. 2012-8 of 04 June 2012 enacting the conditions for the application of the Sovereign Ordinance no. 3.782 of 16 May 2012 concerning the organisation of the administration of the prison and detention system
This legislation sets forth very specific provisions governing all penitentiary activities: administration, inmates' activities, correspondence, visits, occupational/educational services, spiritual assistance, health services and security and disciplinary actions (searching of inmates, cell inspections, etc.).
- Constitution of the Principality
- Sovereign powers
- Executive powers
- The foundations of Monegasque justice and Monegasque Law
- The Supreme court
- The Department of Justice
- The Remand Prison of Monaco
- The High Council of Judges and Prosecutors
- The Public Prosecution Department
- The Justice of the Peace
- The Court of First Instance
- Specialised Courts and Judges
- The Court of Appeal
- The Court of Revision
- The Criminal Court
- The General Court Registry
- The Officers of the Law
- Legal aid
- Assemblies and constitutional bodies