french criminals get their own cycling event with the tour de france penitentiaire

This gives a whole new meaning to the term “chain gang.”

The French penal system has come up with a novel way of rehabilitating criminals, hardened and petty alike, before their reintegration into society: Their own 2,200 km Tour de France.

Not technically a race, the Tour de France Penitentiaire is a new strategy to provide inmates near their release dates a positive, team-building experience in order to help them build self respect.  Surprisingly, the program has broad support.  Victims’ groups, pro riders and team directors all seem to be behind the idea, as do many of the French public.  Masses of people come out to the finish of each stage during the two week event.

David Millar, who served a two-year ban for doping, said “I can’t think of a better way to strip down a person to their basic human nature…it was cycling that gave me the peace and tranquility I needed to rediscover myself, then the passion and drive to better myself.”

The French lottery, Francaise des Jeux, who also sponsors a Pro Tour team that competes in the real Tour de France, is a financial supporter of the program, and their sponsorship director has even ridden with the convict paceline.  Read the whole story here. (Photo from AP)

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