Life Imprisonment Worldwide – The Balkan Component

The international research project “Life Imprisonment Worldwide” gathers an interdisciplinary team of researchers to analyse the practice of life imprisonment around the world in order to understand which crimes attract life sentences, how these sentences are implemented and the conditions under which prisoners serve them. Being the first study of its kind on a global scale, the project aims to provide guidance to policy makers and practitioners on when and how life imprisonment, if used at all, should be imposed and implemented. Basic data for the project is gathered through structured questionnaires which are distributed to research partners.

Opposed to most Western European countries, normative frameworks and practices of life and long-term imprisonment in the Balkans still present a largely unexplored area in terms of a coherent scientific analysis and, as such, are considered a valuable asset of the project. Additional scientific relevance stems from the fact that contemporary historical events, such as dissolution of the former Yugoslavia or the Eastern Bloc, have caused an ongoing sociopolitical transition of the Balkans which has s u b s e q u e n t l y been followed by changes in punitive trends and policies among its member countries. The exploration and understanding of underlying factors which have caused the current divergence among once homogenous penal policies provide therefore a valid counterpart for comparative penal analyses with other societies in transition worldwide.

As one of the partners in the project, the MPPG for Balkan Criminology is tasked with conducting research activities which are comprised within two clusters:

  • Implementation of an in-depth theoreticalempirical analysis of rationale and penal practice pertaining to the death penalty policy in the former Yugoslavia (SFRY), as well as of socio-political factors which have induced its subsequent abolition and replacement with life and long-term imprisonment policies in the seven SFRY successor states. Researchers were Anna-Maria Getoš Kalac and Filip Vojta. This part of the study is completed, the results were presented in April 2015 at the “Life Imprisonment and Human Rights” workshop, organised as a meeting of the “Life Imprisonment Worldwide” research partners at the International Institute for the Sociology of Law, Oñati, Spain, and will be published as a part of the forthcoming book of workshop contributions.
  • Collection of the data set on life and longterm imprisonment policies for the core Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) as well as relevant neighbouring Southeast European countries (Croatia, Hungary, Italy and Romania) by means of implementing the research questionnaires. Coordinators of the data collection are Anna-Maria Getoš Kalac and Filip Vojta, researchers are the Balkan Criminology Network partners. Status of this part is ongoing, estimated time for completion of the data collection is autumn 2015.

Successful completion of research activities within both clusters will be of immense scientific relevance for the project and will also serve as the basis for broader research on current penal policies in the Balkan region.

MPPG contact for Life Imprisonment Worldwide: Filip Vojta