Prison Breaks pp 211-235 | Cite as

Chapter 8 Escapees or Young Runaways? At the Boundaries of Confinement in a French Closed Educational Center

  • Nicolas Sallée
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Prisons and Penology book series (PSIPP)


In France in the early 2000s, closed educational centers (CEFs) were created on the foundation of a misunderstanding. Symbols of the unbridled, renewed promotion of youth imprisonment in public debates, when CEFs opened, they finally appeared to be less “closed” than originally claimed. Although the youths are formally required not to leave the premises, they still leave regularly. Should these outings be considered escapes? The prison term “escape” is often used in the media or in academic discussions, but this is legally inaccurate. To resolve the prevailing confusion, the Ministry of Justice recently issued a reminder: since CEFs are not prisons (in fact, alongside CEFs, there are still “real” prisons for minors in France), youths who leave without authorization are not escapees, but runaways. Based on an ethnographic investigation conducted within a CEF, this chapter looks at the issues surrounding this semantic clarification. On the one hand, the operation of CEFs fundamentally distinguishes them from a prison: educators aim to regulate exits more than to avoid them at all costs. However, on the other hand, as a symbol of the growing prevalence of probationary logic in the French juvenile justice system, every young runaway risks being incarcerated—in a “real” prison—if a judge so decides. Finally, this threat of “real” incarceration hanging over the heads of youths tends to reproduce the confusion, as a symbol of the increasing extension of prison rationales outside the walls of “real” prison.


Prison escape Young runaways Juvenile justice Juvenile delinquency Rehabilitation Carceralization 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nicolas Sallée
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Département de sociologieUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Montreal Research Center on Social Inequality and Discrimination (CREMIS)MontréalCanada

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