CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

These last years, a special emphasis has been put on public safety in French public psychiatry. This attention is especially manifest in the opening of new special security hospitalization units. This development has been criticized by a number of practitioners who point to the importance of protecting patients’ rights and dignity, which is emphasized by the official texts. This discomfort about the place of confinement and restraint in psychiatry is recurrent. This paper sheds light on this issue by examining the changes in the use of psychiatric confinement over a century in a particular institution, the Vinatier Hospital, near Lyon. Through the analysis of the evolution of psychiatric confinement practices and their legal and organizational control, it highlights the persistence of coercion in the economy of psychiatric institutions. In this context, we wish to show that the legal framework does not only legitimate psychiatric coercion, but also makes it appear as non-evident.


  • psychiatric confinment
  • Vinatier hospital
  • history
  • legal rules
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