Children, despite their vulnerability, are often locked in the same places of deprivation of liberty as adults. The legal modalities, in a security context, having widened the possibilities of depriving young people of liberty, the imprisonment of minors is increasing. However, their care conditions remain unsatisfactory. This is the conclusion of a report on imprisoned minors published by the Controller General of Places of Deprivation of Liberty (CGLPL)
More and more children deprived of their liberty
Young people are locked up in penitentiary establishments (minors’ quarters), mental health establishments (ESM), police custody cells, court jails, administrative detention centers (CRA) and waiting areas. Only closed educational centers (CEF) and prisons for minors (EPM) are dedicated to them.
As of January 1, 2020, 804 minors were incarcerated (against 672 ten years earlier), including 82% in pre-trial detention and therefore presumed innocent. The number of young people in closed educational centers continues to increase. In 2019, 135 families with 276 children were placed in administrative detention centers in mainland France, and 2,263 families with 3,095 children overseas. Some 15,000 minors under the age of 16 were hospitalized in mental health establishments in 2016. This number is also increasing.
The CGLPL believes that “the confinement of children is always contrary to their best interests”(new window) and constitutes an attack on their psychological integrity . It recommends strictly limiting its use and prohibiting the placement of minors in waiting areas in favor of alternative measures.
A faulty support
Many structures are poorly prepared for the reception of minors due to:
- premises that are often dirty, degraded, and the lack of separation between minors and adults;
- insufficient training of staff;
- the limited range of activities offered.
Children locked up are unequally protected:
- the disciplinary measures do have an educational aim, but the CGLPL recalls that they cannot undermine the maintenance of family links, nor the education, nor the physical and psychological development of children;
- some CEFs practice strip searches of minors, which the law only authorizes in penitentiary establishments, in cases of serious risk;
- minors particularly suffer from violence, which overcrowding can exacerbate;
- access to care, unequal in CEF, is satisfactory in penitentiary establishments, but young people complain about the small quantities of food served.
Minors suffer from discontinuous care within the confinement structures and between them and the place where they will go on their release. The support is unsuitable:
- unaccompanied foreign minors. They need specific follow-up during their incarceration and to prepare their release plan;
- to young girls. Given their small number, few structures are dedicated to them. In practice, separation by sex prevails over separation by age. However, their imprisonment in neighborhoods for adults is against the law. Like the boys, they must be imprisoned in single-sex cells in underage neighborhoods.
In addition, places of confinement do not always guarantee:
- the right to education, for lack of resources (premises, specially trained teachers). The volume of teaching hours is much lower than that enjoyed by students outside;
- maintaining family ties. The CGLPL wants minors to have the right to more visits and to be able to correspond and telephone their relatives.