France: "escaping the prison diktat"

Sylvain Lhuissier is a social entrepreneur. A former member of Genepi 1, in 2014 he founded the Chantiers-Passerelles association (now called Association Possible) to develop the use of alternative sentences to imprisonment. In 2018, he was involved in the creation of the National Agency for Community Service, where he currently works.

He is the author of the book Décarcérer, which was released on 18 June. Prison Insider asked him three questions.

  1. Student organisation that works with prisoners. For more information, please visit their website

Prison is closely linked to this role of punishment which society is struggling to part with.

It should be kept in mind that prison sentences of less than a year rarely make sense and should seldom be issued.

It's important that these associations be able to intervene on the ground and also choose to take a critical stance towards the actions of the State.

Handbook for people who criticise prison without being heard

The number of prisoners is increasing, short sentences are numerous, the recidivism rate is high. How can the entire prison system be rethought?

The demonstration is 80 pages long. The book feels like following the thread of an informal discussion at a family meal. The author takes apart, point by point, the arguments he has heard throughout his years of involvement. “Club Med”, “people who deserve it”, the school of repeat offenders: Sylvain Lhuissier does not refrain from using the expressions that many wave aside with the back of their hand, too caricatured or coarse to linger there. He shows, page after page, the dead end of the prison system. He works with the terminology that many have used to challenge his views and takes the opponent at their word. He plays their game. No, the material conditions of imprisonment are not good. No, prison does not deter. Why should some have a place there and not others? What is really expected of prisons? Yes, solutions do exist. They are clearly displayed. This is without not the coronavirus crisis and the release of 13,500 prisoners in three months. Current events shed an interesting light on the book, like an echo of the past with its 72,500 prisoners (March 2020). Sylvain Lhuissier is aware of this and the afterword warns us: when judicial activity resumes, prisons will start to fill up again. The window of opportunity is closing, and now is the time to act so that history doesn’t repeat itself.


Lhuissier, S. (2020). Décarcérer. Cachez cette prison que je ne saurais voir. Editions Rue de l’Échiquier, 128 pages.