Educate and punish. Educational work, security and discipline in juvenile detention centers
One characteristic trait of prisons for minors (EPM : Établissements pénitentiaires pour mineurs) — new prisons reserved for youths aged 13 to 18 — is the requirement that prison guards and Youth Judicial Protection Service (PJJ : Protection judiciaire de la jeunesse) educators work in pairs within the housing units that make up the prison. In the first part, we will describe how these educators, plunged into the middle of what is theoretically a hostile setting, must draw upon different moral, educational and penological registers to justify, in practice, their presence in the prison. As for the penitentiary staff, this reinforced proximity with educators risks confining them even more to the pure role of guard, of “key holder”. They therefore push the idea that educational work is not strictly the prerogative of their PJJ colleagues, even that, mutatis mutandis, it is they who are the “real educators”. Thus they initiate a jurisdiction conflict revolving around the act of educating, which we will detail in the second part. In the third part, we will describe how the system of punishment in EPMs sheds light on the dominance of security-centred rationales in prison. In fact, on the one hand, if the guards are able to highlight the educational dimension of punishment, this is the prerequisite for preserving the privilege of defining what is and is not possible in prison, particularly by preventing the emergence of all new innovative or alternative forms of conflict resolution. On the other hand, educators are caught between a withdrawal rationale that at best consists in condemning the system of punishment as anti-educational by nature, and a rationale of educational reinvestment that consists in asserting that respect for prison order, arbitrary though it may be, is an indispensable step in the process of prisoner responsibilization, newly updating the disciplinary purpose of the prison institution.
Keywords. PRISONS FOR MINORS – JURISDICTION CONFLICT – EDUCATIONAL WORK – DISCIPLINE – PROFESSIONS