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Thousands of causes to support
Testimony 07/03/2022

Thousands of causes to support

Women who change the world - Marie Deschamps, GEPSA

I don't feel like I'm changing the world, but if I can work to ensure that my team is happy at work, and that prisoners experience incarceration in dignified conditions, that's already a lot.

There are thousands of causes to defend, and if everyone listens to their heart, they will find the subject that speaks to them of injustice, which bothers them and will then be able to invest in a better world.

Marie Deschamps

Marie Deschamps joined the Group 14 years ago, first in gas activities. She then felt the need to add meaning to her professional life and joined GEPSA 5 years ago. Since 2020, she has been Director of the Prison de la Santé in Paris.

GEPSA is a subsidiary of ENGIE Solutions which provides Facility Management services on sensitive sites, mainly prisons, administrative detention centers or military bases.

Marie, what is your job?

I am the Site Manager, I supervise the teams that provide the services delegated to us by the state, namely the stewardship and the daily life in the prison. We are in charge of 2 large families of services: services to the building such as maintenance, green spaces, cleaning; and human services: catering, laundry, work and transport of prisoners, reception of families or the public for the visiting rooms.
I see myself as the conductor of the site where the virtuosos are the teams, the technicians, the laundry men, the drivers, the receptionists, etc. My role is to set the tempo, to make sure that everyone plays its score together for a successful concert.
What I like about this job are above all the human relations, with my teams but also with the prisoners, the prison staff, the management of the establishment which controls us, the external stakeholders, whether they are service providers or visitors. 
A prison is a miniature city, with a lot of human, intellectual and even contractual richness. I also enjoy it because, at my level, I feel like I'm helping my teams and participating in the smooth running of the establishment. If we do our job well, the detainees experience their detention better, the staff work in better conditions… that's what gets me up in the morning.
I studied Political Science, so general interest and public service are important concepts for me. I feel in my place in this type of market (public service delegation) because the proper functioning of prisons is in the general interest.

Like many, I had a rather dark image of prisons though you speak of them as a particularly human world

This environment is relatively unknown and unfortunately has a negative image. It’s not something you dream about, yet it is an incredible environment. In prison, you have people who are excluded, people in pain, sick people (including psychiatric cases) you have poor people, less poor people, intelligent people, funny people, aggressive people… It's really the same thing as outside. Of course there are also specific subjects such as security, but there are many social subjects inside.
On these sites, GEPSA is a service provider and I want us to provide a quality service. It's not just about managing a budget and processes as well as possible, it's about being useful in a concrete way. This is the advantage of the operational, we immediately see the fruit of our work, its positive impact. The customer is there with us, and we spend our lives solving problems and providing solutions with the teams.
Beside the basis of our missions such as providing quality meals, clean premises and ensure light and heating, there are all the unforeseen events, repairs, curative maintenance, no routine! For the establishment to be serene, everything must work well in our services. An inmate who does not receive the tobacco he ordered from us is capable of attacking a guard or setting fire to his cell to express his anger.
In recent years, the subject of the energy footprint of our activities has also grown, and on the sites we are increasingly seeking to implement actions to better meet the challenges of sustainable development with and for prison administration. As a citizen, these are also important subjects for me.

You could have this same role of improving daily life in a building, in a hotel, in an airport?

Yes, but I think it would be less complete. The prison environment is particularly interesting from a human point of view. You meet people who are excluded from the system, from the world, and if I can do something at my level to improve their daily lives, that's already a lot.
I have been a volunteer at Restos du Coeur for 12 years, and I wanted to work in prisons precisely because I felt a gap between my previous position at GEM and my involvement in associations. This work allowed me to be aligned with my values.
I don't feel like I'm changing the world, but if I can work to ensure that my collaborators are happy at work, and that prisoners experience incarceration in dignified conditions, that's already a lot.

A message you would like to share?

Wanting to save the world is a great idea but remaining very humble and very modest is for me the best way not to be touched by anger or despair. In fact, you never change the world, you change your own world, the world around you, on your own scale. Doing what you can is already a lot.
My approach is to tell myself that I am doing what I can in my professional or personal life. I do not want to feel guilty for not succeeding in solving the problem of greenhouse gases or malnutrition in the world, anyway I do not have the means. Doing at your level and above all with pleasure is the important thing. If we enjoy doing things, we will do them with enthusiasm and authenticity, and it will radiate around us as an evidence.
There are thousands of causes to defend, and if everyone listens to their heart, they will find the subject that speaks to them of injustice, which bothers them and will then be able to invest in a better world.

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