Central to this research program is the question of how society responds to crime, with an emphasis on the functioning of (inter)national criminal justice systems. The research questions focus on decision-making, functioning and execution, and the consequences of criminal justice responses.
Crime is a major social problem. Societies try to define, suppress and prevent crime by enforcing laws and rules and punishing those who break these rules. But what are its effects and consequences? Does the system actually work as intended?
The research program covers all phases of the criminal justice system and targets all agencies involved in the process of lawmaking, detection and investigation, trial and sentencing, and the enforcement of sanctions. This includes the police, prosecutors, judges, lawyers, prison staff and probation officers. In addition, the investigation focuses on the persons subject to the sanctions. We do not limit ourselves to crimes and criminal responses in the Netherlands, but also investigate crimes that fall within international criminal law. We study genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity and the international criminal justice responses to them by, for example, the International Criminal Court.
We investigate which factors influence criminal decision-making, why certain decisions are made in certain circumstances and to what extent criminal justice institutions and actors are perceived as legitimate. How are sanctions applied and implemented? And how are those sanctions experienced by those convicted, by those who impose them and by society as a whole? We also investigate how the criminal justice system functions for vulnerable persons. Finally, we study the extent to which criminal justice responses are effective in achieving the intended goals, such as reduction of recidivism, successful reintegration of ex-offenders, retaliation and rehabilitation for victims. This also identifies possible unintended consequences of sanctions, for example in the areas of health, employment and housing.
To investigate how criminal justice systems function, we use different theoretical perspectives, such as Life Course Perspective, Procedural Justice Theory, Deterrence Theory, Transitional Justice, and Intergenerational Transmission. With regard to the methodological approach, the research program has two central principles. First, we believe in the importance of an interdisciplinary approach, as the research is at the intersection of several disciplines, including law, criminology, sociology, psychology, health sciences and computer sciences. Second, we emphasize the importance of using empirical research to answer our research questions. Whether quantitative or qualitative, national or international, comparative or focused on a single criminal justice system, transversal or longitudinal, exploratory or explanatory, and descriptive or experimental. In order to properly answer the research questions, we use a variety of data and data collections, such as (systematic) literature research, existing registration data (police files, criminal records, CBS data), surveys, interviews, focus groups, (audiovisual) observations and experimental research.
The research group is actively committed to (inter)national scientific cooperation and knowledge exchange with practice. We work together with, among others, the National Police, the Council for the Judiciary, the Public Prosecution Service, the Judicial Institutions Agency, the Probation Service, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the International Criminal Court. Our researchers chair working groups of the European Society of Criminology (Prison Working Group, Atrocity crimes and transitional justice) and contribute to (inter)national scientific journals. We also regularly organize knowledge meetings.