Judging Mohammed: Juvenile Delinquency, Immigration, and Exclusion at the Paris Palace of Justice

Judging Mohammed: Juvenile Delinquency, Immigration, and Exclusion at the Paris Palace of Justice

Judging Mohammed: Juvenile Delinquency, Immigration, and Exclusion at the Paris Palace of Justice

Judging Mohammed: Juvenile Delinquency, Immigration, and Exclusion at the Paris Palace of Justice

Synopsis

In October 2005, three weeks of rioting erupted in France following the accidental deaths of two French boys of North African ancestry. Killed while fleeing the police, these boys were deemed dangerous based largely on their immigrant origins. In France, disadvantaged children of immigrant and foreign ancestry represent the vast majority of formal suspects and have increasingly been portrayed as a threat to public safety and as the embodiment of the assault on French values.

Despite official rhetoric of protection, Judging Mohammed reveals how the treatment of these children in the juvenile courts system undermines legal guarantees of equality and due process and reinforces existing hierarchies. Based on five years of extensive research in the largest and most influential juvenile court in France, this work follows young people inside the system, from arrest to court trials. Revealing an alarming turn toward accountability, restitution, and retribution, this groundbreaking study uncovers the disquieting reasons behind France's shifting approaches to the identification, treatment, and representation of its delinquent youth.

Excerpt

The first full day I spent in a juvenile courtroom at the Paris Palace of Justice was a shock because all of the “suspects” were at-risk minors, and all but one were foreigners or minorities. Their offenses constituted less of a risk to public order or municipal security than to themselves and their future. Violence figured in only one of the infractions, and it involved grabbing a cell phone from a tourist who was making a call. It was a raw day in January 2001, but I decided to walk to the Ile de la Cité from my tiny studio apartment on the Left Bank. En route I passed many of the venerable state institutions that produce the nation's elite. In this part of the Latin Quarter, the monumental paeans to France's civilizational grandeur are everywhere—prestigious preparatory schools, elite public universities, research centers, ancient churches, and the national mausoleum itself. My destination, the Palace of Justice, is flanked by the imposing Conciergerie prison (where Marie Antoinette was held briefly before her execution) and encompasses within its walls the magnificent twelfth-century Sainte-Chapelle. The medieval gated fortress housing the Palace of Justice is where I came to know the “other” Paris—“the hoodlums, delinquents, recidivists, and marginal families” at court, which was one judge's parody of the public perception of the juvenile justice system.

I was scheduled to attend penal hearings in the Eighteenth District South courtroom. When I arrived at the public entrance, I was unprepared for the large crowd of tense people waiting to enter the Palace of Justice, in contrast to the few intrepid tourists who had come to visit the Sainte-Chapelle. The police had divided the line in two. I soon found myself caught in the press of mostly brown and black people clutching court summonses and jostling for position . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.