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French prisoners post Facebook selfies with drugs and money

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Authorities launch probe into Marseille prison as guards call for staffing increase

Officials in France have launched an investigation into a Marseille prison after a group of inmates there posted photos of themselves with drugs, money, and cellphones on a Facebook page. According to local newspaper La Provence, the prisoners' selfies were uploaded to a Facebook page called "MDR Baumettes" ("LOL Baumettes"), referencing the name of the prison where they're being held in southern France.

In the images, inmates pose with wads of cash, weed, and other contraband, though it's not clear who took or posted the photos. Philippe Perron, the head of Marseille's prison administration tells the AFP that the page was created from outside the prison, but its unnamed author has since deleted it. A formal probe was launched after the page was discovered on Monday, and Perron says that prison authorities have already recovered some of the contraband displayed in the photos.

"They're so overwhelmed, they can't do their jobs anymore."

The images drew a stern response from France's prison guard unions, who say staff shortages have allowed prisoners to turn Les Baumettes into a "vacation club." Les Baumettes has come under criticism for its management and unsanitary living conditions, following a string of scandals. The facility was built to accommodate 1,200 inmates, but currently has 1,800. In 2005, the Council of Europe described living conditions there as "on the borderline of the acceptable, and on the borderline of human dignity." Les Baumettes' guards have staged several protests over the years, demanding staffing increases to help control the prison.

"What we're seeing in these photos... what are they trying to say? That prison guards aren't doing their job?" Catherine Forzi, of the FO Penitentiaire prisons union, told France 24. "First of all, we need a sufficient number of guards — which is not the case today. They're so overwhelmed, they can't do their jobs anymore."