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France: Official Report Calls for Reform of Rehabilitation Centers for Juvenile Delinquents

(Nov. 18, 2013) On November 13, 2013, the French Comptroller-General of prisons issued a report that is highly critical of two “Centres Educatifs Fermés” (CEF, Closed Education Centers). (Contrôleur général des lieux de privation de liberté, JOURNAL OFFICIEL DE LA RÉPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE (Nov. 13, 2013).) These centers are the product of a 2002 law reforming certain aspects of French criminal law and criminal procedure. (Loi du 9 septembre 2002 d’orientation et de programmation pour la justice, LEGIFRANCE.) They were created as an alternative to traditional detention centers for juvenile repeat offenders, the goal being to rehabilitate these particularly difficult juvenile delinquents through education in a structured environment. The Comptroller-General’s report, however, states that the two centers in question were failing to provide a safe and structured environment or meaningful educational services. These centers therefore violated, in the Comptroller-General’s opinion, the resident children’s basic rights to a safe education as defined by the Convention of the Rights of the Child. (Contrôleur général des lieux de privation de liberté, supra.)

The Comptroller-General has issued similar reports regarding other CEFs in the past few years. Most centers seemed to function in at least a satisfactory manner, but several were found to be gravely failing, with problems stemming from poor planning, inadequately trained personnel, and lack of proper oversight from the judicial authorities. (Franck Johannès, Centres éducatifs fermés: atteintes aux “droits fondamentaux” des enfants, LE MONDE (Nov. 13, 2013).)

The French Minister of Justice, Christiane Taubira, has promised extensive reforms to the CEF system following this latest report. Her intent is to focus on the centers’ governance, on continuing education for their personnel, on better coordination with health services to deal with certain behavioral problems, and on improving the centers’ intake and orientation procedures. Furthermore, Taubira intends to put in place systematic monitoring procedures to measure the impact of the CEFs and determine their effectiveness in rehabilitating the juvenile delinquents sent to reside in them. (Franck Johannès, La chancellerie promet des réformes profondes, LE MONDE (Nov. 13, 2013).)