Closed institutions for juveniles have always been subject to public debates. The polarised arguments which have been exchanged for years in media, politics and practice are in the end not very helpful in terms of a deeper understanding of the effects of total institutions, especially in respect of understanding the influence of imprisonment on the ongoing integration conflicts of socially marginalised adolescents. The following text approaches the experience of imprisonment and release from the perspective of young males being imprisoned in juvenile detention centres in Germany from a qualitative and longitudinal research design. Three case examples are discussed under the focus of a psychodynamic approach: how do the young men experience incarceration? How does the double-bind structure of pressure and care shape their biographical self-concepts? Which autonomy conflicts do adolescent prisoners have to go through when they leave the closed institution? In all three cases we see that prison is perceived as an institution which promises a holding structure--a promise which can not be fulfilled and which reinforces the psycho-social conflicts of marginalised adolescents.
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