Antoine Dulin. The ESEC typically works on economic, social and environmental questions. This is the first time that the Prime Minister has referred to it directly on a justice topic, and reintegration at that. In the 75 years that the ESEC has existed, this is a historic first. Regarding the notice that we rendered, it is separated into four sections.
The first relates to public opinion. The members of the ESEC are not experts on the subject, and they were in the same situation as any citizen, with the same preconceived ideas. Five months of work, which included hearings with inmates and former inmates, enabled them to gain awareness that something else could be done with the prison system. There are quite a few stereotypes. Few people know that the average detention length is nine months, that the majority of prisoners serve short sentences, or that few present a danger to society. We estimate that this is the case for 10 to 15% of them. Life imprisonment represents 2% of sentences. Naturally, the question of release of all these individuals arises.
The second point of our notice is the development of alternatives to detention. Custodial sentences remain the standard sentence. For whom? For everyone.
Although the judges hand down these sentences, we must not judge them, as they are supported by public opinion. In 2008, 72% of survey respondents assigned the mission of reintegration to prisons, as opposed to only 48% in 2018. Prison is imagined as a safety tool but not as one that enables reintegration. This social debate simply does not take place.
The third part of our notice concerns the tools given to inmates to enable reintegration. This process includes working on oneself and considering one’s actions, which are such personal aspects that we did not look at them much. We focused on another aspect, that of the person’s circumstances: access to social rights and education, such as French language learning, and access to work and occupational training. All inmates must have access to all of this, without discrimination. Yet only 28% of them gain access to a job and only 16% to occupational training.
How can inmates become active participants in their journey despite prison’s tendency to disempower and dissocialise? One of our recommendations is to give the power to take action to inmates and ensure that they do not experience two shocks, one upon entering prison and one upon leaving it.
The last major idea is the title of our notice: how can we make reintegration everyone’s business? Currently, it falls to the prison administration, in collaboration with associations. The other public services, as well as public and private employers, are wary of individuals being released from prison, or they are overloaded with work. Society’s view of these individuals must be changed in order to promote their reintegration.