UPDATE (January 14, 2015) :

The videos in this article were filmed in 2008 by the now-infamous Amedy Coulibaly and his fellow inmates. The French newspaper Le Monde had later interviewed the young man, who was 26 at the time. Seven years later, he perpetrated the attacks in Montrouge and at a kosher supermarket located in Paris' Porte de Vincennes neighbourhood. 


Prisoners at a French jail have managed to film their conditions using hidden cameras smuggled into the jail. The resulting video provides a close-up look at the world of the French prison service.

Over an hour of footage was shot with the aid of a hidden camera smuggled into the prison. The inmates then managed to get the equipment out of the prison and into the hands of two young film producers, Omar Dawson and Karim Bellazaar, who together edited the video that we see here. The images reveal moss-covered shower walls, less-than-basic toiletries and crammed cells. They also show us a few examples of the inventiveness of the residents. For example, the 'Yo-Yo' system, which allows inmates to pass objects from window to window using bed sheets.

Karim Bellazaar and Omar Dawson kindly offered permission for The Observer site to publish the short film. They hope it to reach as many people, particularly abroad.

"Their message is simple: don't believe that that prison is a place of rehabilitation"

Karim Bellazaar is a co-founder of Iscreen, a production company which works mainly in the poor suburbs of Paris.

This idea came from the inmates, not from us. They got in touch with us because they knew about our work in the suburbs and because they trusted us. They didn't want to give the images to the mainstream press. They took the risk of filming to give people another view of life in prison life, different from the usual reports, which they believe are too supervised by the prison service.

Their message is simple: don't believe that that prison is a place of rehabilitation. Because - as the inmate at the end of the video explains - all sorts of people get put in the same situation in prison: bandits, professional criminals and minor delinquents. I'm always hearing people say that the suburbs are lawless places. Well so are the prisons, and they're administered by the state.

We're going to make a documentary with the rest of the images we've got. There are violent scenes, of course, but also some funny scenes. We're going to try to show the psychological violence that this self-contained world brings about. Remember they've only got an hour a day outside. What do they do the rest of the time, locked in their cells?