Incarcerated Minors and Their Health: The Lack of Data and the Risk of Institutional Stigmatization.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Yaëlle AMSELLEM-MAINGUY, Institut national de la jeunesse et de l'éducation populaire (INJEP), France, CERLIS, France
Benoît COQUARD, Institut national de la recherche agronomique (INRA), France, Institut national de la jeunesse et de l'éducation populaire (INJEP), France
Arthur VUATTOUX, Institut national de la jeunesse et de l'éducation populaire (INJEP), France, Ecole des hautes études en santé publique (EHESP - School of Public Health), France
In 2015, the French ministry of health proposed to launch a study on a very small population, the incarcerated minors (which represent no more than 800 minors at a given moment). The question was to document the behaviour, knowledge and representation of that population in respect of HIV (and other STIs), contraception, consent, and other matters relating to their sexuality.

In order to answer this question, we decided to realize a qualitative study, based on in-depth interviews with 72 youths incarcerated in 5 French prisons. We assumed that this question was best addressed qualitatively, because of the lack of knowledge about the health and sexual issues in this population, and because of the characteristics of this youths, often dropouts, and not very familiar with the exercise of the questionnaire which could be seen as a police interrogation.

Indeed, the only studies about youths and sexuality were conduct on youths in school, whereas the young we study are often dropouts from school before their entry into sexuality. Then, the design of our study reveals the need of data collected qualitatively on such vulnerable populations. This choice could also be problematic, because it supposes that the population we are studying is “specific”, in a context where these youths are sometimes considered as “deviants”. Our results suggest that these youths are relatively similar to others, referring to their sexual behavior, knowledge and representations, though their living conditions impact in some ways their entry into sexuality.

In this paper, we propose to deal with the restitution of the sociological knowledge produced about invisible youth populations, to official institutions which tend to stigmatize them as “specific” or deviant “population”. Finally, our study highlights the need of rhetoric precautions in order to account the complexity of their situation and to avoid miscalculated judgments about them.