Space and Surveillance in a Prison for Minors

Special Report : Space and the social order
By Gilles Chantraine, David Scheer, Olivier Milhaud, Matthew Cunningham

At the intersection between a sociology of surveillance, a sociology of professions and a sociology of infrapolitics in authoritarian environments, this contribution proposes an ethnography of human and technological surveillance in juvenile prisons, understood as unique but symbolic areas of social control. This original empirical investigation has enabled us to decipher not the functioning of an omniscient panopticism, but that of a compartmentalized prison space, where every sub-space – circulation corridor, cell, unit of life, educational centre, medical centre – is subjected to a visibility test and to specific stakes, structured by conflictual negotiations between various professional groups (educators, guards, teachers, nursing staff), and between inmates and professionals. In so doing, the analysis of surveillance practices reveals the complexity of the relational economy in detention, as well as the negotiated but asymmetric modalities of the production of order.

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