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Article Dans Une Revue Punishment and Society Année : 2010

French prisons of yesteryear and today


In France, while the invention of the penal prison represents a historical turning point, it is also in line with the repressive practices of the Ancien Régime. Reconstruction of the sociogenesis of the institution and of the general structure of prison reforms shows a peculiar historical dynamic: whereas the prison is primarily a tool for handling illegalities, its inertia resides less in its disciplinary function than in the constant inter- ference of the pragmatic achievement of its main goal – locking inmates up – with the correctional aspiration. Two important, contradictory reorientations in this dynamic partially break the ‘monotony’ of prison reforms. On the one hand, the decline in prison’s rehabilitative vocation, the extension of risk management-oriented penology and the will to remove dangerous individuals from society tend to reinforce the safety- oriented structure of the institution and its inherent violence. On the other hand, criticism of institutional totalitarianism and the demand for respect of human rights are continually questioning the traditional exertion of power in custodial contexts. The history of contemporary French prisons, torn between the primacy of security and respect for basic rights, is the outcome of the balance of power between two penal modernities with conflicting stances on basic rights.
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Dates et versions

hal-02440477 , version 1 (15-01-2020)



Gilles Chantraine. French prisons of yesteryear and today. Punishment and Society, 2010, Punishment & Society, 12 (1), pp.27-46. ⟨10.1177/1462474509349009⟩. ⟨hal-02440477⟩


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