It is traditional in France to free several thousand inmates on the eve of the national celebrations for 14 July, Bastille Day. However in recent years, lawyers, judges and politicians have been trying to make it harder for those charged with serious crimes to benefit from the early release.

This year the government has decided that prisoners who are repeat offenders were not eligible for the amnesty. This year President Jacques Chirac once again granted pardons but prisoners who have been jailed for two or more offences are excluded from early release.