2012 - Volume 53 > Numéro 4

ISSN 0035-2969

Disciplining sentiments : responsiblity and guilt in judicial proceedings against minors
Sébastien ROUX


In France since the government edict of February 2, 1945, juvenile offense cases have been officially distinguished from others by the importance attached to applying an « educative » rather than « repressive » approach. This explicit stance on the part of the political and judiciary authorities has generated institutions whose policy is one of « educative » guidance. But what does this educative work consist in ? In a context marked by the increasing bureaucratization of social and legal work, how do agents assess the impact and effectiveness of that policy ? Using the results of an ethnography conducted in an open custody unit of the Protection Judiciaire de la Jeunesse (judicial protection of youth bureau) and a juvenile court in the Paris region, the study shows that professionals attach particular importance to bringing about a change in attitude toward self and others. The understanding is that « successful accompaniment » of delinquent minors will move them to express a sense of responsibility and guilt for their actions, two feelings invested with redemptive, healing abilities. Expression of such sentiments, which are at the heart of the moral economy of juvenile delinquency, is understood to attest to a subjective transformation which becomes the ultimate justification for the work done with these delinquents as well as a condition for their pardon. The importance attached to eliciting expression of a sense of responsibility and guilt thus partakes of a program of disciplining sentiments where the aim is no longer to correct conduct but persons.



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