Deterrence versus procedural justice. Successfully reducing reoffending

NSCR researcher Anja Dirkzwager, together with Peter van der Laan and Paul Nieuwbeerta, has received a grant in the NWO Open Competition for the project Deterrence versus procedural justice. Successfully reducing reoffending. The research is a collaboration with Leiden University and contributes to NSCR research into the objectives, realisation and effects of criminal sanctions that limit the freedom of an offender.

An important aim of imposing sanctions is preventing people who have already committed crimes from breaking the law again. However, worldwide, the figures for reoffending are high. Usually, the criminal law system assumes that criminals will reoffend less if they perceive sanctions as (more) severe and if they feel they have been treated (more) fairly and respectfully. These assumptions are based on two well-known criminological theories: the deterrence theory and the procedural justice theory. The correctness of these assumptions has not been investigated yet. The project “Deterrence versus procedural justice. Successfully reducing reoffending” investigates these ideas among detainees.

Consequences of perceived severity of sanctions and perceived perceptions of treatment

The overarching aim of the research is to assess to what extent the deterrence and procedural justice theories hold for detainees. Does the severity of the sanction and treatment of the detainees correlate with their probability of reoffending? Is one of these two factors more important for reducing reoffending than the other? Is a respectful treatment by the judge just as important as a respectful treatment by the prison staff? These are some of the questions the research focuses on. In the research, both the determinants and consequences of the perceived severity of the sanction and the way in which the treatment is perceived will be investigated.

Detainees followed from the start of their detention until six months after their release

In the project, quantitative, qualitative and observational research are combined. Use will be made of previously collected data from the large-scale longitudinal Prison Project. In addition, two PhDs will set up and realise a new longitudinal data collection in which they will follow a number of detainees from the start of their detention until six months after their release. The PhDs will repeatedly interview these persons and observe their contacts with various actors from the legal system, such as the public prosecutor, judge and prison staff.

Read more about the Sanctions Cluster.

dr. Anja Dirkzwager

About dr. Anja Dirkzwager

Anja Dirkzwager received her Ph.D. degree in 2002 for a dissertation on posttraumatic stress reactions among Dutch soldiers who participated in international peacekeeping operations, and the wellbeing of their family members. Subsequently, she worked at the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research (NIVEL) investigating the physical and mental health consequences of disasters.

As of August 2007, she works as a senior researcher at NSCR. She is one of the principal investigators who initiated the Prison Project, a nationwide and longitudinal study on the effects of imprisonment on the further life-course of prisoners and their families. Her research interests include the physical and mental health of prisoners and their family members; prisoners’ perceptions of the conditions of confinement; and the effects of imprisonment on the further life-course.

She is chairing the ESC working group Prison Life & Effects of Imprisonment.

Anja is a member of the Life-course Cluster, the Intergenerational Cluster and the Sanctions Cluster.

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