Issue 25/2020

Out in September. 2020

TSANTSA Dossier Nr. 25/2020 | The penal field and its hybridisations “in action”: institutions and individual experiences| ed. by Géraldine Bugnon, Arnaud Frauenfelder, Armelle Weil, Franz Schultheis

Since the 1980s, the penal field has undergone significant transformations in Switzerland as in other Western countries. The contraction of the welfare state coincided with the reinforcement of the penal and liberal state, which at the same time replaces social protection with expectations of individual responsibility and transforms the repressive apparatus by drawing on human rights rhetoric (Fassin et al. 2013).

Due to these developments, the dynamics of the criminal justice system became ever more complex. Contrary to Michel Foucault's predictions, jails have not been emptied. Incarceration rates are increasing in most Western countries, indicating a shift towards punitive policies (Garland 2001). Simultaneously, we witness forms of humanisation regarding detention conditions, with the advent of new social rights and legal guarantees for detainees (Frauenfelder, Nada, and Bugnon 2018). As a further development, a multitude of alternative measures to incarceration (such as electronic bracelet, non-custodial sentences, mediation in criminal cases, etc.) are being implemented. They are expected to help reducing prison overcrowding and the high costs generated by detention, but also to offer a more dignified accompaniment which favours the reintegration of convicted individuals. These open sentences paradigmatically combine social and penal logics—a melding of protection, surveillance and repression—and tend to make sentenced individuals bear sole responsibility for the success (or failure) of the measure (Bugnon 2017; Devresse 2012).

While the diagnosis of a “social-criminal continuum” is often put forward in social sciences, concrete features of the penal and social policies hybridization processes remain less documented. This is the case both for institutional actors, as well as for individuals who may be subjected to penal coercion. It is important to document these processes, as research has tended to favour an internalistic and segmented approach. Penal institutions have been analysed, in vast majority, separately and independently. And research projects have often been conducted within institutions, focusing on their agents or users, without putting agents back into the penal chain, composed of social, educational and health professionals. More generally, the penal field remains a blind spot for social science research in Switzerland, compared to other neighbouring countries.

This special issue contributes to the ongoing theoretical renewal of ethnographic approaches in regards to State policies. Favouring a “bottom up” perspective, and emphasizing individuals’ discourses and experiences, our approach combines heuristically interactionist and structural perspectives, in order to resituate institutions and individuals within the social and power relationships they are embedded in. At the crossroads of social problems, penal institutions and deviance studies, this special issue aims to explore how the hybridizations of the penal state and the social state transform judicial institutions—both in the juvenile and adult justice system—as well as the impact of these hybridizations on the forms of social control deployed by the penal chain. This perspective raises the following questions:
How do the different professionals (from the social, medical and penal field) negotiate their scope for action within the penal system? Which jurisdictional conflicts (Abbott 1988) emerge and how do they affect the modalities of penal control?
In what way does the penal field contribute to the construction and management of social issues? What effects does the penal management of health and social issues produce, in particular with regard to citizens’ access to social rights? How do professional or associative actors appropriate law to provide care, build integration projects, or bring support to people facing difficulties?
Who is controlled, judged, protected and/or punished? In the light of research that has demonstrated the differential management of illegalisms (Foucault 1975), this special issue will also provide the opportunity to question the heterogeneity of legal coercion, enforced by the panel chain for each segment of the population. How do citizens or their relatives exercise their rights when facing penal institutions? How does the enactment of penal law participate in the (re)production of social relations or the redistribution of resources (Cicourel 1968)?
Finally, how do individuals experience the penal treatment they are subjected to, and the resulting forms of control? To what extent does this experience influence their overall life trajectory and their perception of penal justice?

Authors are invited to submit proposals (in French, English or German) exploring the various relationships between penal and social logics within the penal field, by drawing on different perspectives in the social sciences (e.g. deviance, work/occupation, regulation). We will favour empirical contributions using a substantial ethnographic methodology, focusing on different national contexts. We welcome contributions from all analytical levels; micro (e.g. criminal and delinquent career analyses), meso (e.g. organisational logic, collective actors) or macro (e.g. penal policy and justice).

Abbott, Andrew. 1988. The System of Professions. An essay on the division of expert labor. University of Chicago Press.
Bugnon, Géraldine. 2017. « Un contrôle pénal négociable. Conformité, résistance et négociation dans les mesures en milieu ouvert pour mineurs délinquants au Brésil. » Agora débats/jeunesses, no 77 (octobre): 80‑92.
Cicourel, Aaron Victor. 1968. The Social Organization of Juvenile Justice. New York: Wiley. Traduit de l'américain par Samuel Bordreuil. 2018. La justice des mineurs au quotidien de ses services, Genève, Ed. ies.
Devresse, Marie-Sophie. 2012. « Investissement actif de la sanction et extension de la responsabilité ». Déviance et société 36 (3): 311–323.
Fassin, Didier, Yasmine Bouagga, Isabelle Coutant, Jean-Sébastien Eideliman, Fabrice Fernandez, Nicolas Fischer, Carolina Kobelinsky, Chowra Makaremi, Sarah Mazouz, et Sébastien Roux. 2013. Juger, réprimer, accompagner: essai sur la morale de l’État. Seuil.
Foucault, Michel. 1975. Surveiller et punir. Naissance de la prison. Gallimard.
Frauenfelder, Arnaud, Eva Nada, et Géraldine Bugnon. 2018. Ce qu’enfermer des jeunes veut dire : Enquête dans un centre éducatif fermé. Seismo. Genève et Zürich.
Garland, David. 2001. The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society. Oxford University Press.