Chair: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Imprisonment is currently the most severe governmental sanction imposed on criminal offenders in Europe. Approximately one million persons are confined in penal institutions across Council of Europe countries, and prison populations have been growing in two thirds of them. Therefore, substantial numbers of people have had a prison experience and increasing numbers of people are released from prisons back into society. It is important to know the impact of incarceration on these (ex-)prisoners and whether there are long-term unanticipated consequences of imprisonment on the further lives of ex-prisoners and their families.

Despite its manifest importance in crime prevention, there is surprisingly little knowledge on life in prisons as well as the (causal) effects of imprisonment. While some literature is available about prison climate and the effects of imprisonment on recidivism, far less is known about the effects of imprisonment on more conventional life domains such as socio-economic status (employment, living conditions), family formation and disruption, social integration, and health. Moreover, the methodological designs of most existing studies are inadequate to overcome selection effects and, therefore, cannot make causal inferences about the relationships between imprisonment and the further life course. Additionally, most prior studies did not address questions regarding mechanisms that might explain the effects of imprisonment on life-course circumstances.

This means that basic questions regarding the (causal) effects of incarceration on criminal behavior and life course circumstances of convicted persons and their family members remain largely unanswered.

In order to stimulate prison research in Europe and to promote contact between the various European research groups working on imprisonment, we have established the ESC working group on imprisonment. We would like to invite all ESC members involved in studies on prison life and the consequences of imprisonment to combine their expertise and join the working group.

The specific interests of the working group include:

1. Life in prison

2. The effectiveness and impact of prison sentences on:

  1. life courses of ex-prisoners (e.g. socioeconomic status; labor participation; social networks; health)
  2. future criminal behavior of ex-prisoners
  3. life courses and criminal behavior of ex-prisoners' families

3. Causal effects of imprisonment on the further life course of ex-prisoners and their families

4. Mechanisms explaining the (causal) effects of imprisonment

5. Theories and a theoretical integration of knowledge on the effects of imprisonment


To facilitate and encourage research on life in prisons and the consequences of imprisonment, and to maximize international dissemination of prison research results.

Our objectives are

  1. To promote communication between European researchers on imprisonment
  2. To organize thematic sessions at the annual ESC meetings
  3. To establish cross-national research ties and promote international collaboration on prison research


The working group is chaired by and its activities coordinated by Anja Dirkzwager. All ESC-members involved in research projects on prison life and its consequences are invited to join. If you would like to join, please send your name, position, affiliation, and a description of the research project(s) you are working on to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Contact address

Dr. A.J.E. (Anja) Dirkzwager
NSCR (Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement)
PO Box 71304
The Netherlands
Tel: +31 (0)20 - 598 5239 (secr.)
Fax: +31 (0)20 - 598 3975
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.