The plans, to be known as a ‘citizen service’ (service citoyen) and reported in Friday’s Le Parisien newspaper, have apparently been agreed by both President Sarkozy and the prime minister, Francois Fillon.
A draft bill has been drawn up by Eric Ciotti, a member of parliament with the governing UMP. The newspaper reports it is likely to be debated in October and could be adopted by the end of the year.
France has seen a sharp increase in the number of offences by minors in the last 30 years. The draft bill cites a figure of 82,000 criminal acts involving children in 1977 versus 214,000 in 2009, a rise of 160 percent.
Ciotti said young offenders would be able to choose between the new ‘citizen service’ and prison.
If they chose the former, they could expect to receive “basic education, training in an apprenticeship and lessons on citizenship.”
They would also be subjected to a regime of “strict discipline inspired by military rigour.”
The length of the service would be fixed by magistrates, but Ciotti expected it to last “between four and six months.”
Crime is expected to play a big role in presidential elections planned for April 2012 with President Sarkozy likely to exploit his hard line reputation.