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Yazid Kherfi, the former robber who wants to reinvent the prison

Yazid Kherfi, the former robber who wants to reinvent the prison

This penitent ex-convict, who has now become a mediator and trainer, wants to make imprisonment the last resort. He dreams of effective and humanistic social reintegration.

In the 1980s, he ended up in prison for five years. Today, he dreams of opening a university there. The contours of the project are already clear in the mind of Yazid Kherfi, this former robber who has become an expert in prevention. The mediator, who surveys sensitive neighborhoods at the wheel of his motorhome, has seen his activity suspended by the health crisis, but he is not discouraged and continues to think about ways to fight against recidivism.

The purpose of this extraordinary school that he imagines: to train prisoners in the prevention of delinquency, revise their sentence and make them work in the municipalities that need it. “There is a lot of intelligence in prison, we don't use it,” he criticizes. The expert says that in the corridors of the Ministry of Justice, he is quickly brought back to his naivety, but he does not give up and waits for someone who will give him the green light. " I believe it ! We have always moved forward with utopia… I am the very proof that this project can work. And I'm not exceptional, there are plenty of people like me, but we didn't reach out to them at the right time. »

This ordinary man's humility, Yazid carefully cultivates it. He takes off his newsboy cap screwed on his head and speaks frankly, without detours, with a discreet smile. Seeing him, it is difficult to imagine the big difference in his life - robberies and armed robberies in his youth, years on the run, after a tumultuous schooling spent in the heart of Val-Fourré in Mantes-la-Jolie (78 ), then on his release from prison a job as a facilitator and a Master's degree in Security Engineering obtained in 2002 at the National Institute for Higher Studies in Security and Justice, with honors.

He has now moved to the other side of the desk and is training future executives for intervention in sensitive areas at the Nanterre faculty. In addition, an independent consultant in urban prevention, he offers his services to town halls and has also officiated at the regional economic and social council of Île-de-France for two years.

The ex-robber who trains police officers and judges

This extended CV has opened the doors to police and judicial academies for him for several years. In front of an attentive audience, Yazid gives his recommendations on detention, his own journey being taken as proof. “I have always reoffended because prison has its criminogenic side, because you only meet delinquents there. He relies more on work of general interest, training, civic service missions which put the prisoners in contact with the outside world and free them from a dangerous inter-self.

In 2013, the mediator also participated in the consensus conference on recidivism, requested by the Minister of Justice at the time, Christiane Taubira. If he is delighted with the law born of these reports, which favors short sentences, he deplores an application that is still too cautious by the judges. “Prison remains the easiest and the sanction of reference, whereas it must be the last of the decisions. Unfortunately, there are political reasons behind these choices: elections are won on security. According to a study by the International Prison Observatory, published on February 5, 63% of prisoners in France are sentenced again after a first incarceration.

“Before the cops put me in handcuffs, now they stand at attention when I enter the room! [….] It's the world upside down. »

Yazid Kherfi

But the eternal optimist does not back down, and notes the goodwill of the future magistrates and police officers he trains. This Franco-Algerian is still amused by this position of schoolteacher and his political laurels, with an incredulous laugh: "Before the cops handcuffed me, now they stand at attention when I walk into the room !

On my release from prison, they wanted to deport me “in the name of the French people”, and still in their name, years later, I received a medal from Madame Taubira for my work. It's the world upside down. “And to declare one of his adages of which he is fond:” like what, with the will and the efforts, one always manages to find a place in the sun. »

Return to prison to help inmates get out

It is this type of mantra that he disseminates during meetings with prisoners, which are ultimately at the heart of his “mission”. Yazid Kherfi has been traveling for years around thirty French prison centers each year, to tell his own path to redemption and where he is rolled out "red carpet", he assures. Like the former mayor of Mantes-la-Jolie, Paul Picard, who pleaded against his expulsion on his release from prison and changed the course of his life, Yazid wants to create a click in the minds of prisoners . “It was the first time that I was told that I could be a good person. I always tell prisoners that they have more qualities than faults! They see my journey, it gives them hope. “His hobbyhorse: prepare for release from prison, “stop the bullshit” to stay away from the courts, find a job and housing.

But Yazid has no magic solution. Some inmates worry: with a criminal record, how do you convince an employer? How to survive while waiting to reach the RSA at the end of the month? “At that time, I lower my head, there is no answer. Anxieties that follow him but do not discourage him: "it's anger that keeps me going". And there are sometimes bright surprises, which redouble his perseverance: letters from prisoners, meetings with those who have escaped. Among them, Yacine Yahiaoui, a former prisoner present during an intervention at the prison of Réau (77), where he was then locked up. He remembers his first exchanges with the mediator: “he leads people to ask questions, his approach is noble. Other released detainees return to meet him in the evening, in the street, when he puts down his “nomadic mediation” motorhome.

A motorhome to prevent crime in neighborhoods

Since 2012, Yazid has founded his association, now funded by the state, and has already made more than 360 stops in neighborhoods. On the asphalt of the northern districts of Marseille or in the streets of Mayotte, he spreads out his folding chairs and takes out the thermos of tea to chat with the young people who hang around outside and whom no structure comes to welcome. Its objective, once again: to do prevention, tell its story and "devalue" banditry. The curious questions about his honor roll as a robber, he quickly eludes them: “Young people are often fascinated by my past, so I tell them to look at my present. When you choose delinquency, you end up between four walls or four planks. There is no mystery. At the lure of money, which leads to "parents' tears", he defends his quiet happiness, in a small town in Yvelines, his family, his garden. “Even a train ticket, I pay for it,” he laughs. Its accessibility is a hit. Yacine Yahiaoui, who regularly accompanies his association today, praises "his simplicity which brings great depth", "his presence and his banter", his exemplarity.

“When you choose delinquency, you end up between four walls or four planks. There is no mystery. »

Yazid Kherfi

A model figure who does not get bogged down in his successes. Based on his solid experience, Yazid always wants to understand young people, reads books about them, learns with them. “It's up to adults to put themselves on their level, to then help them to rise. His approach is hampered by the curfew and the successive confinements, which exacerbate the isolation of the most fragile: Yazid already knows that the psychological damage will be numerous when he returns to the field. But the first appointments are already booked and the mediator is longing to get back on the road.

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