DS0801 - Rapport au risque et innovation sociale

Punishing and treating : an empirical research on the articulation of health and criminal justice – REPESO

Punish and Treat

An Empirical Study of the Relationship between Health Care and Criminal Justice


We aim to further understanding, from a socio-historical, legal, and sociological perspective, of how the legal framework, goals, targeted populations, and methods have changed, and how the various forms of intersecting criminal-justice and health-care interventions affect the treatment of offenders.<br /><br />This collective and multidisciplinary research aims to objectify changes in the use of treatment ordered in criminal cases and psychiatric evaluations, as well as the influence of health care issues and expert opinions on judges’ sentencing decisions, and also to identify changes in the practices for treating such individuals and the methods used by professionals to assess the risk of recidivism. Moreover, the research involves an analysis of the relationships between criminal justice and health care professionals, the methods for managing their interdependence, and their acceptance or rejection of government reforms or innovations.

To understand the diversity of local arrangements, this quantitative and qualitative research focus on and produces comparative monographs concerning six locations. We started with a statistical analysis of a representative sample of criminal cases (at least 2500) in each location. All felonies tried in the felony courts (Cour d’assises) will be taken into account, but given the much greater volume of misdemeanors handled by the courts, we will examine only three categories of misdemeanors: sexual offenses, domestic abuse, and drug-related offenses.

This quantitative approach will be backed up by an ethnographical study based on interviews and observations. Based on the initial statistical results, compared with our legal and socio-historical analyses, a series of interviews will be conducted in each location with all of the professionals involved in this process: judges, probation officers, psychiatrists and psychologists, social welfare professionals, etc.

We aim to objectify the frequency with which expert evaluations are conducted or treatment is ordered in criminal cases, the types of offences that give rise to such treatment, and the criminal and social background of the offenders in question. We will try to determine what variables experts and judges consider to be factors supporting a decision to “prescribe” treatment.

Interviews will make it possible to analyze not only the goals and results pursued by lawmakers, but also how professionals perceive and reappropriate these goals and reforms. We will analyze the “tensions” between legal mechanisms and the values, principles, reasons for taking action, and practical meanings defended by the various parties involved. Our examination will focus in particular on information sharing and the protection (or not) of confidentiality both in prison and in alternative sentencing situations. We will analyze the various formal and informal interactions produced by the existing mechanisms to determine how professionals involved view their cooperation and respective roles; how judges, probation officers, and health care professionals relate to each other; and whether these interactions produce complementary relationships, avoidance strategies, or conflicts.

This research will permit to understand the diversity of local arrangements, expert evaluation practices, and judges’ decision-making practices; the effective implementation of treatment; and the interactions and rapport among the various professionals involved in the medico-legal treatment-supervision of offenders.

The results of this group research project will be published in a multi-author volume. In addition, we will publish topical articles in the form of dossiers, as well as individual or multi-author publications delving more deeply into various aspects of the research. We will propose these articles to French and international peer-reviewed scientific journals.

A team of about fifteen researchers – specialized in Law, Sociology, Psychology, and Political Science – will conduct a multidisciplinary research, on both a theoretical and empirical basis, pertaining to the forms, the mechanisms, the evolutions and the stakes of the articulation of justice and health to cope with criminals. Our empirical research, led on a quantitative and qualitative basis, aims at objectivizing and comparing the practices in six French courts. This research will be based on interviews of various professionals and on the statistical analysis of at least 3 000 cases, which will be selected over a long period in order to indentify possible changes. As French Criminal Law contains penalties including different compulsory or quasi compulsory treatment, this study aims at highlighting the features of the offender populations sentenced to this very kind of penalty. The study will also question the way treating penalties may affect the practices of criminal justice as well as offenders’ careers. REPESO gathers together researchers from five laboratories well-known in the field of criminal law, criminology (DCS, EPRED, CRDP), political science and sociology (ESO, CENS).

Project coordination

Virginie Gautron (Droit et Changement Social UMR 6297 - Université de Nantes)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


ESO, UNIV-RENNES2 Espaces et Sociétés UMR 6590, Université de Rennes
EPRED, UNIV-POITIERS Equipe Poitevine de Recherche et d'Encadrement Doctoral en Sciences Criminelles EA1228, Université de Poitiers
UBO -CRDP Université de Bretagne occidentale - Centre de recherche en droit privé EA3881
DCS, UNIV-NANTES Droit et Changement Social UMR 6297 - Université de Nantes
CENS, UNIV-NANTES Centre Nantais de Sociologie FRE 3706, Université de Nantes

Help of the ANR 424,580 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2015 - 48 Months

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