Adolescent arrestees detained in police cells: an observational study in the Paris, France, area

Abstract

Objective

Custody conditions in police cells are often demeaning and considered inappropriate for human beings. The detention of young adolescents in police custody has received little attention. Our study aimed to describe the characteristics of adolescents under 18 detained in custody.

Methods

We studied all arrestees aged 13–17 examined in 1 year (January 01–December 31, 2014) in a suburban district near Paris. We evaluated the proportion of adolescents under 18 among all arrestees detained in custody and their medical history, addictive behaviors, perceived health status, and opinion on custody.

Results

Arrestees aged 13–17 accounted for 1859 individuals. They were predominantly males (94%) and accounted for 19% of all examinations in custody. Nearly half of the arrestees aged 13–15 (42%), and two thirds of those aged 16–17 (65%) had been previously detained in police cells. Somatic and psychiatric disorders were reported by 7% and 4%, respectively, of arrestees aged 13–17. Alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis consumption were reported by 5%, 24%, and 12%, respectively, of arrestees aged 13–15. These proportions were lower than the 16%, 50%, and 35%, respectively, reported by arrestees aged 16–17 (p < 0.0001). Assaults were reported by 18% of arrestees aged 13–17. They had a fair, bad, or very bad opinion on custody in 43% of cases.

Conclusion

The detention of adolescents in police stations is commonly associated with assaults at the time of arrest. High proportions of adolescent arrestees smoke tobacco or cannabis. We suggest that the medical examination in custody could be an opportunity for adolescents to initiate access to health care.

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Correspondence to Patrick Chariot.

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Coudert, C., Vidal, C., Lefèvre, T. et al. Adolescent arrestees detained in police cells: an observational study in the Paris, France, area. Int J Legal Med 133, 1251–1258 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-018-1942-1

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Keywords

  • Adolescent
  • Police custody
  • Assault
  • Addictive behaviors
  • Medical examination
  • Health care