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When is an adolescent a child or an adult? Orléans, France

Date Added: July 13, 2007 02:13:21 AM

I have just been listening to a debate on TV about a new law to deal with juvenile delinquence. I sometimes wish that the French didn't all speak at the same time. There were judges, lawyers and psychiatrists present and it was most interesting but very hard to follow.

The government is to treat 16 and 17 year olds as adults and send them to prison if they commit the same crime three times. President Sarkozy is a law and order man and he promised this during his election campaign.

Very good, I'm all for law and order on the streets and one should put the fear of god into these hooligans.


In France there are about 52,000 places in the prisons. There are already almost 62,000 prisoners. Except for a handful of new prisons most are in a deplorable state with prisoners sleeping on the floor for lack of space. Sanitation is appaling. Very little in the way of rehabilitation programs. The ideal place to send people that society wants to see suffer and to never let out again.

As a place to re-educate and make better citizens of? Not much hope.

Also almost half are awaiting trial, or are put there by the investigating judge who in some or perhaps many cases does so to put pressure on them so they'll talk. The presumed innocent and young get mixed up with hardened criminals. Of course they all get educated. One might wonder in what discipline their diploma will be.

Money, money, money. Of course it's less expensive to pass a new law.

There is perhaps the question of stopping the young becoming hooligans or whatever in the first place. Single parent families, unemployment, breakdown of marriage. For the last twenty years marriage as a social norm has been under attack as being almost unsocial. Children born out of wedlock. The word is no longer used. Schools can no longer discipline them. In some countries in Europe one can't even smack them though that is not the case yet in France.

Dare I suggest compulsory service in the Boy Scouts for everyone until they're old enough to do their (non existant) military service. Families composed of a father (male) and a mother(female) lawfully married. I must be dreaming.

The new justice minister, Rachida Dati, is herself a product of immigration, with mixed Algerian Moroccan parentage. However in Sarkozy's government the Prime Minister no longer rules the ministers and orders are given by the team of specialist advisers in the Elysée Palace. Dati's own cabinet must be suffering. In France the specialist advisers that surrounded a minister held a very important place. The chief counsellor and three lesser one's have just quit. What an atmosphere.

See the original article on the author's blog at