Interview

France: indiscriminate surveillance

How does the fight against terrorism manifest itself in French prisons?

The French prison system currently includes seven radicalisation assessment units (“quartiers d’évaluation de la radicalisation”, QER). Six are functioning and the seventh will open next week at the facility in Vendin-le-Vieil. The goal of these QER is to evaluate and re-orient detained persons described as radicalised or likely to become so.
Currently, there are 1,500 of such individuals. Who evaluates them? What comes after their evaluation, performed over the course of several weeks, in a QER? How do these units work?

David Scheer is a criminologist. Recently, he contributed to a sociological study with Gilles Chantraine and Marie-Aude Depuiset on the radicalisation assessment units in French prisons. Prison Insider asked him three questions.

In a sense, they can be considered triage and orientation stations for “radicalised” prisoners.

I am not saying that none of them are dangerous people, I am simply saying that we must be attentive to a form of upending the presumption of innocence.

The succession of the units are so many examples of emergency measures, indeed panic measures, that struggle to calmly think through good practices.

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