This text brings to a close the series of articles « Melanie Klein as an analyst of adolesents ». In the course of this series, the author has successively studied the cases of four adolescents. Three were Klein’s patients: « Felix», « Ilse», and « Willy» illustrated the concepts of internal objects, unconscious fantasies, and the feminine phase common to both sexes. The fourth, « Fabien Especel », was the hero of a fantastic novel whose projective identifications Klein explored.
As part of this conclusion, the author revisits the Kleinian conception of the childhood roots of « psychical puberty » and the theory behind the technique used with adolescents. In doing this, he describes certain new ideas which, sown by the thinking of Klein, came to fruition after her death. In particular, new ways of thinking about the transference/counter-transference pair, through explorations of the epistemophilic drive and projective identification.
Using medico-psychological assessments of adolescent criminals, we propose a contribution to the study criminal origins. The adolescent crime translates the « dead end » of the adolescens process into an actualisation of infantile origins. The importance of criminal violence shows the misadventure of the « separation/individuation » process. The crime is an appeal to representation with agonistic and anaclitic anxiety. It shows an « alienated figurability » (M. and E. Laufer) acting in the crime. The criminal comportment is an answer to a break-down situation of the criminal.
With reference to P. Aulagnier’s research, particularly « auto-engenderment principle », we link the criminal origins to distortions between mother and the child, to defects in the « protective shield », to primary psychic envelopes and to the inadequacy of maternal responses given to signals emitted by the child.
Through the text of an adolescent girl, put in jail for having killed her own child, the author questions the construction of meaning in the very place where meaning is devoid of sense and comments the passage from non-representability of the unconscious fantasy towards the non-representability of writing through preconscious representations.
In criminology, delinquency and criminality are described as primarily male activities ; this is the conclusion of many studies. Moreover, most of the researches that have studied delinquent phenomenon are based on samples of boys or men. Consequently, few data are available on girls’ delinquency. Our study draws up an inventory of delinquent activity in a sample of 241 minors, 168 boys and 73 girls, living in Gap and Grenoble and their suburbs.
Imprisonment creates a break in relationships and defers the future. This emptiness leads to a question about the identity which dates back to adolescence. For the incarcerated woman, the question will be « What is it to be a woman… in jail ? » with the particular difficulties inherent to the situation and their expression in custody.
Until the early nineteen-nineties, legislative developments and judicial practices tried to reduce the imprisonment of minors. Without calling into question the guiding principles of the ruling of February 2, 1945, this tendency has changed. The question is whether it is possible to take into account, in terms of education, the period of detention in the career of a youngster.
New legislation dealing with the treatment of delinquent minors and the resulting arrangements constitute a break and a regression in relation to the history of this treatment since 1945, with the theoretical contribution of the human sciences on this subject, and with the professional experience accumulated by those who intervene in this field.
The mode of intervention by Judicial Youth Protection which has now been established for dealing with incarcerated minors provides a good illustration of this regression. In an open institution, the youth worker and, through him, Judicial Youth Protection, must occupy a complex position as a third party outside the penal institution. The continuity of the educative action and the exteriority of the institutional position are inseparable and determine the validity of this intervention. The return of the notion of rehabilitation, as opposed to the concern for the consideration of the subject in his psychical reality, and its corollary, the return of the Judicial Youth Protection as co-guarantor of the penal world for minors, will invalidate this position and its potential.
This article exposes and supports a research-action held during the past two years at the « minors’area » at Aix-en-Provence’s prison (theoretical number of youngsters : 33), by a child-psychiatrist team with a psychoanalytic orientation. The team believes it has gathered significant elements to establish a potentially therapeutic relationship with almost all of the incarcereted adolescents.This approach requires a deontological-technical methodology based on independance of the health department from the judiciary-penitentiary Complex.
Considering the broken histories of these adolescents, their subjectivation disorders, the danger they encounter and the danger they pose to others, their reluctance to meet psychists out of prison, one can read this article with a Public Health dimension.
The author describes the conditions of team work. Meetings are held in the « minor’s area » itself, in a close relationship with these adolescents and other adults (teachers, wards). This framework contributes to the establishment of a group transference base from adolescents to « psychists » and vice-versa (counter-transference). Such a proximity stimulates different levels of conflictuality between the child-psychiatric team and the penitentiary administration, which can be observed and progressively treated.
This framework gives support an extensive approach (almost all) of the incarcerated adolescents. The possibility and the therapeutical potential of this approach has been checked by the team at a certain stage of the research. Two clinical vignettes will give account of two very difficult to reach adolescents. Two limits of the extensive approach are studied. The main one is related to Winnicott’s « anti-social tendency » theory : the demographic increase of the « minors’area » (beyond a 20-25 threshold), lead to the abandonment of some adolescents who were benefiting from a continuous care frame, which can cause some antisocial recurrence. Hence, the team tries to work under the level which it knows would be possible and desirable, waiting for better means to be allocated by a non-listening administration.
The surprising openness to others that these incarcereted adolescents, reluctant to meet psychists out of prison, is thrown light on by what the author calls « the nursing side of prison ». It is understood according to a metapsychological model whereby items are linked into an « idealtype » : reintroduction of the dimension of the Real through arrest-incarceration; confrontation with the constant counter-excitation strength of the state; lowering of unconscious guilt through the lived experience of sanction; triangulation through justice and penitentiary administration of mother and child relationship; restoration of deprivation and maltreatment through the positive side of surveillance and authority. A series of vignettes supports each of these items. Another vignette shows the extreme limit of this frame of thought, where prison was not tolerated, essentially because of an unsustainable sense of loss. The relative and revisable limits of the model are brought up. The catastrophic picture of abolitionists (opposed to prison for minors) is objected to, holding in mind the team’s global experience of these adolescents’evolution.
The account of the deontological-technical methodology of the team is preceded by an analysis of the health, penitentiary and youth protection guidelines, linked to a so-called pluridisciplinarity in minors’area. The author states that these texts as well as the monodisciplinary exercise stemming from them are anti-deontological and do not favor the process of subjectivation. He exposes the interest of a method which offers to the adolescent a high level of confidentiality during clinical meetings, as well as his true implication in contacts between the psychiatric team and other intervening staff.
The current idea about the necessity of mediators, indispensable to psychists in order to approach these adolescents, is relativised. The team believes in a therapeutic couple (or pair), for a better base to transference-countertransference than dual relationship. The main hypothesis is that this couple acts as the attractor-reorganisator of the « primal scene », too chaotic or violent, split off or foreclosed by the patient. A clinical vignette shows the use of this technique in particularly active modality with a difficult adolescent for whom we have a one year step back about his evolution after prison.
Some perspectives of the research-action are developped. The team’s position is undertoned by the new order about the presence of educators from the « youth judiciary protection » at the minors’area. The crucial question of the means is evoked again, in terms of post-penal follow-up, psychiatrists training, and comparative study of child-psychiatry approachs within « minors’areas ».
The main theoretical references are given, permitting theoretical and clinical developments. The author and his team are conscious that youth delinquency and its treatment are the object of socio-political constructions, with medias’intermediary, which have their considerable weight on clinical work. The reader will also have a sense of the « all prison » approach, opposed to a measured approach which has to treat on the same level the unbearable lack of means of the outside prison care and the improvement within the existing « minors’area ». The history of youth delinquency treatment has shown that any unilateral view was immediately followed by refutation.
Isolating is an institutional affair, to isolate oneself is to play with the inner/outer shell of the « Ego-skin ». Every decision concerning the adolescent and every treatment is situated within this complexity: does the outside, the perceptual, bring into the isolation enough traces for him to be able to think about it, for him to have a capacity for reverie – that is, for him to be able to carry out his adolescence?
Referring to our psycho-sociological research and to several years of reflexive interviews with adolescents, I analyze the way in which the housing project, a space for daily living and belonging, constitutes both a place of refuge and a risk of fixation. In the face of stigma, the adolescent peer group welcomes and protects; it also represents a place of confinement, both in the psychical sense and the sense of material survival. Getting out of the projects requires important steps made up of failures and successes. All leave this adolescent situation, the paths are many, and the recourse to Islam is more and more one of the ways.