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The prison is named after the district of Les Baumettes. It is located at 239, chemin de Morgiou, in the 9th arrondissement of Marseille. This area was outside the city but has been absorbed as the city expanded.
The prison covers some 30,000 m². It contains 1,380 cells housing approximately 1,700 prisoners, mostly men, around a quarter of whom are not French. The site includes a unit for juvenile offenders, another for female prisoners, and a prison hospital.
A 10-year renovation project started in 2006. The project will cost approximately €133 million to improve standards of hygiene, safety and security. The first phase, from 2006 to 2010, involved renovations to the main entrances, watchtowers, visiting rooms, and the construction of a new mess hall and workshops. The prisoners' accommodation was renovated from 2009.
In January 2015, La Provence revealed that pictures of inmates with "cash, dope and mobile phones" were uploaded to a Facebook page. After the page was closed down by the authorities, another page was created, with similar pictures, but hooded inmates. Prison wardens admitted they were understaffed. Politician Eric Ciotti called for a "Marshall Plan" for French prisons.
- French Ministry of Justice: Marseille: Etablissement pénitentiaire - centre pénitentiaire
- Henry Samuel, French prison guards warn Marseille jail has become a 'holiday camp', The Daily Telegraph, January 6, 2015