The Mirror Image of Asylums and Prisons. A Study of Institutionalization Trends in France (1850-2010)

46 Pages Posted: 31 May 2014 Last revised: 10 May 2016

See all articles by Sacha Raoult

Sacha Raoult

Aix Marseille Université; University of Chicago

Bernard E. Harcourt

Columbia University; Columbia University

Date Written: May 28, 2014

Abstract

This article analyzes trends in prison rates and mental hospital rates in France since the earliest available statistics. It shows that, on almost two centuries of data and amidst an agitated political history, every asylum trend in France is "countered" by an inverse prison trend, and vice-versa. Both trends are like a mirror image of each other. We reflect on the possible explanations for this intriguing fact and show that the most obvious ones (a population transfer or a building transfer) are not able to account for most of the relationship. After these explanations have been dismissed, we are left with an enigma with wide theoretical and practical implications. How is it that when prisons fall, asylums rise and when prison rise, asylums fall? We suggest possible research avenues drawing on the 1960s and 1970s critical literature on "total institutions" and offer implications for current theories of the "punitive turn" and current quantitative studies of prison rates.

Keywords: prison population, mental hospital population, mental hospitalization, asylum, mental illness, deinstitutionalization, mass incarceration, punishment theory, homicide, France, Europe

Suggested Citation

Raoult, Sacha and Harcourt, Bernard E., The Mirror Image of Asylums and Prisons. A Study of Institutionalization Trends in France (1850-2010) (May 28, 2014). Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-389, Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper No. 472, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2442944 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2442944

Sacha Raoult

Aix Marseille Université ( email )

3, Avenue Robert Schuman
Aix-en-Provence Cedex 1, Aix en Provence 13628
France

University of Chicago ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Bernard E. Harcourt (Contact Author)

Columbia University ( email )

Jerome Green Hall, Room 515
435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Bernard_Harcourt

Columbia University ( email )

7th Floor, International Affairs Bldg.
420 W. 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States

HOME PAGE: http://polisci.columbia.edu/people/profile/1685

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