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A childhood in detention, a report on 4 continents, 12 countries, 69 prisons, 8 years old. (1999-2007)

Visa d'Or Award 2007


More than a million children around the world live in detention without being able to benefit from the assistance of a lawyer, most often in countries where there are no children's courts or specialized judges, in defiance of international treaties .

The CRC, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed in 1989, stipulates that no child will be deprived of liberty, that detention should only be a measure of last resort and be as short as possible.


The way a state treats its prisoners is a pretty good indicator of the quality of its democracy and a society is also judged by the way it treats its children. However, in many countries, re-education camps, prisons, closed centers, remand centers, penal colonies, and juvenile prisons keep young people detained in arbitrary, humiliating, repressive and inhuman conditions.

Too often, they are not separated from adults, faced with violence, mistreatment, corporal punishment, sexual abuse, forced prostitution, racketeering and caïdat. Access to education is denied to them. Overcrowding, promiscuity, poor nutrition, lack of hygiene, lack of medical care are the rule.


The vast majority of these minors sent to prison are not in conflict with the law by choice but because of the misery of which they are victims. Prison worsens their situation and it would be more judicious to offer them alternatives to imprisonment.

Can we consider educating by offering only confinement?

I wanted to testify with my photographer's gaze of the state of juvenile justice in 12 countries with different geopolitical characteristics on 4 continents: countries at peace and at war, democratic states and authoritarian regimes. From one continent to another, one cannot help but be struck by the resemblance of certain scenes ...

I encountered - and this is an understatement - the greatest difficulties in obtaining the necessary authorizations throughout the eight years that this work lasted from 1999 to 2007. It took me, for example, a year and a half of procedures to have in the end only 1h30 in each of the three prisons visited in Russia. In the United States, the same steps took me three years ... I approached a total of sixty countries. The 12 countries I have been able to access have opened the doors to sixty-nine prisons for me. There are also thousands of young people met behind bars.

Exchanges with some will remain in my memory. I was moved, touched by Sergei, Sacha, Dimitri, Pablo, Armando, Pascal, Alain, Matpala, Rivitchet, Khaled, Ali, Ron, David, Swasan, Evariste, Philibert, Sabrynn, Mike and many others.


I was carried by the idea of ​​bringing our eyes inside these places of detention and to carry their gaze outside. I wanted to give these young people back their dignity, to break the silence in which they find themselves and above all to break their isolation.


A report to get them out of the shadows ...

Lizzie SADIN

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