A report about the prison in New Caledonia has found that conditions are precarious, degraded and unsanitary, and violate fundamental rights.
The findings have been published in Paris by the Controller General of Prisons, Adeline Hazan.
The report noted that two-thirds of the 239 cells are now shipping containers used to house more than 330 people.
It said there was insufficient ventilation, making temperatures at the height of summer unbearable.
The report said no establishment in mainland France would tolerate such conditions.
However, it also said there was relative calm because detention staff were considerate, and that there was no doubt everyone was trying to make the jail liveable.