“People have a frightened relationship with justice”, according to Marianne Bressy

It’s a big, very big house to which you don’t like to be invited. Guarantor of the rule of law, justice nourishes both the greatest fantasies and the worst fears. Erected to protect the population by enforcing the law, the institution is also capable of destroying lives when it condemns wrongfully. Regulated by innumerable laws, justice is too complex to be understood by the general public. In a sometimes incomprehensible vocabulary, she tries to make the fairest decisions in a context of glaring lack of human and financial resources. Despite efforts made since 2016, French justice has seen its budget settle at 72.50 euros per year and per inhabitant, according to the report of the European Commission. Based on 2020 data, this survey reveals that justice expenditure in France is lower than the European average. Starting with Germany where it is twice as high.

It is to try to make French justice more readable than the Images of Justice festival was created in Rennes in 2003. On the occasion of the event’s 20th anniversary, 20 minutes met Marianne Bressy, artistic director of the festival since 2011. This activist, former rave party organizer, gives a cold and admiring look at the institution that she would so much like to see evolve.

The Images de justice festival tackles a complex subject. Why this choice to talk about justice?

Because it governs our daily lives. We may not realize it, but everything we touch is governed by the law. However, we absolutely do not learn how justice works. You never see him in school unless you go to law school, it’s amazing. It’s like a specialized science. The objective of the festival is to open up justice, to make it more readable and therefore more understandable.

Do you have the feeling that she is scary?

Yes. People have a frightened relationship with justice. It is rather something that we avoid, whether we are a victim or a culprit. We don’t like to be involved in it when it is written for us, in order to protect us. We have the impression of a form of passivity in front of her. The trials, the prison… All that is set aside. As if we managed it for us, without us having to deal with it. It’s like politics, it seems too far from us, too far from our reality. It is difficult to understand, which creates mistrust.

The question of miscarriage of justice is also in everyone’s mind, it is scary. We have the impression that justice is something very square when it is very human. It is always up to the judge to decide on the application of the law. In this space between the judge and the text, anything can happen.

Especially since justice can invite itself into the heart of our lives and our secrets.

It sometimes comes to the most intimate. In the context of a divorce, for example, it is sometimes a judge who interferes in the intimacy of our couple. We find ourselves face to face with a complete stranger who doesn’t speak our language and wants to know everything about us: do we drink often, what is our income or if we still sleep together. Justice is often where there are tensions. It is she who is supposed to adjust them but it is sometimes unreadable.

Most courtrooms are free to enter. Why is nobody going there?

Because if we haven’t learned the language, we won’t understand anything. It’s long, it’s slow, it’s hard to understand. Justice must be freed, its citizenship restored. This is why the disappearance of citizen jurors is very dangerous. The assize jury is the only place where the citizen is connected to the sentence. It’s the only time the people can say something. The jurors always come out very marked by these trials.

There is, however, a fascination for news items and major trials…

We are rather there in the taste of blood. It’s more of a fascination with what a human is capable of doing to another human being.

The issue of lack of resources is often mentioned. Does your festival have the ambition to denounce it?

We are not here to tell you how to do it. We are there to debate, to show films, to invite specialists who invite reflection. I have the feeling that we only ask ourselves the question of justice when we are confronted with it. But how not to be discouraged when faced with such slowness? Yes we lack judges and yes, they are too badly paid like caregivers in hospitals or teachers at school. That’s why there are more lawyers than judges.

You also intervene in prison. How do detainees view the justice system that sentenced them?

All the inmates I work with are confused. Even when they have accepted the penalty, they will tell you: there is no justice. The population has the impression that the condemned must pay for their crime. But when you see the recidivism rate, you can tell yourself that it doesn’t work. Neither do the alternative sentences. Even a criminal who killed, raped or robbed, we have to do something about it. The question is what? Is locking up criminals in a place populated by criminals effective? The SPIP (penitentiary services for integration and probation) work a lot and do what they can but it doesn’t work. Perhaps because justice remains too far from its population.

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