Absent Friends

These pages are dedicated to members of the European Group who have died but who remain with us, continuing to inspire and stimulate us. There are many people who are not mentioned here but who provided inspiration and friendship to our members.

Memories of Massimo. In memory of M. Pavarini

I started writing this text in Barcelona and finished it in Bogotá. Both cities have a special meaning in the route that this text goes through, not examining Massimo Pavarini’s work (many people are doing this), but to transmitting what my personal memory evokes as the wonderful adventure of meeting him and enjoying his extreme generosity, his many teachings, and his friendship.

I met Massimo in Barcelona, back in 1985, when Roberto Bergalli used to invite him and Alessandro Baratta, and they planned to start the Common Study Programme on Criminal Justice and Critical Criminology, a common program between different universities where I could participate while completing my doctoral studies. In Barcelona, next to Roberto, a group of young people gave their first academic steps, learned some Italian by translating Massimo and Sandro, and started to read some “classical” documents on Critical Criminology that were very little known in Barcelona. It was in that Common Study Programme, especially in its famous and amusing “common sessions” (in Ghent, London or Saarbrücken), where we witnessed the debates between Dutch and Nordic abolitionists, guarantee-based discourses, Italian or Latin American supporters of a minimum criminal law, and British left realists. Louk Hulsman, Jock Young, John Lea, Patrick Hebberecht, alongside Roberto Bergalli, Juan Bustos, Sandro Baratta and Massimo among others, were the promoters.

In the case of Pavarini and his works, in those 1980s we used to read Control and Domination (along with Baratta’s Critical Criminology and Critique of Criminal Law, and The Criminological Thought. A critical analysis by Bergalli, Bustos and Miralles). Then we jumped to the study of Prison and Factory (Pavarini-Melossi) for our first penologist-critical readings of the revisionist historiography firstly applied to the analysis of prison by Rusche and Kirchheimer (with Punishment and Social Structure) and Foucault (through Discipline and Punish). With those theoretical inputs I took the decision to work on a doctoral thesis about the fundamental rights of prisoners and social movements of resistance against punitive power, and felt that I should leave Barcelona for a deeper study of all this questions to a different cultural environment. My destination turned out to be the city of Bologna, in the winter of 1988.

From the request made by Roberto Bergalli to Massimo, he picked me up at the airport in Bologna. With a generosity that seemed extreme to me, he took me to his small studio in the historic centre of this beautiful city. I remember my first walks with Massimo, who told me about every corner’s history during those tours that always ended in some coffee or restaurant.

He helped me to find a place to live in the Institute A. Cicu of the Università degli Studi di Bologna. I started working and he got me a permission to have a desk, access to the library, and a card to photocopy all books and journals for free. This is how I started to accumulate lots of Italian political and historical material on prisons, while “frequenting” the climate which permeated the partisan and resistant history, even in the 1980s’ decade, in general, and in the fields of criminological and penologist research in particular.

The talks with Massimo usually focused on some key points of my work which I can recognize yet, over twenty-five years later, were (and still are, to a large extent) the fundamental subjects of the true substance of deprivation of liberty. Massimo always faced these issues with depth and clarification, always “going beyond” those regulatory legal discourses we had been taught. His serious and forceful thought reflected a permanent contrast between legality and reality, this tension revealed by a critical legal-criminal sociology that – I would learn this later – Massimo had built long since his youth amongst a circle of professors like Alessandro Baratta and Franco Bricola in the adventure of founding La Questione Criminale in January 1975 in the city of Bologna. I was fascinated by entering a world of cultural and political debate that was unknown for me, and that would end up advising all the approach that, still in an intuitive way, I already wanted to take for my study of the prison penality. I can remember quite clearly the fundamental themes of those talks with Massimo.

On the debate about the fundamental rights of prisoners, Massimo already pointed out beyond the rhetoric about their natural existence, looking critically at the situation and daring to ask: do they actually have rights?; is it worth fighting for the affirmation and recognition of human rights?; isn’t prison, by definition, a field of rejection of the legal culture that affirms the existence of such rights? We discussed this for hours until our conversations shaped the concept of “devaluation” of rights to the miserly category of the so-called prison benefits that implied the (not only legal) status of “second-class citizens”, a process to which law contributed in its normative production as well as by its interpretation and application.

Another important debate that we shared (rather than debate, it was obviously a process of continuous learning for me), and I discovered as one of their core elements on the penal issue, was the one concerning the concept of “special relationship of subjection” applied to prisoners by the prison administration. This led us to the actual core point of the prison issue, namely the historical re-construction of a universe built on the basis of the denial of rights and, at best, on the limited recognition of “prison benefits” that reflected an old-style correctionalism based on a rewards-and-punishments logic for the day-to-day governance of the prison penalty. I thought I was starting to understand in depth the universe of segregation and its dialectical relationship with a democratic discourse of rights that was, de facto, permanently denied. Massimo truly opened the door to what he called the “difference” between the prison penalty “in the books” in contrast to the prison “in the facts”. Critical socio-legal epistemology was based on these approaches.

I also remember, with his generous and supportive attitude, finding out the personality of a more “serious” professor character at the University, where students used to stop him constantly to ask so many questions to which he always answered with some distance and seriousness as fast as possible, to walk on undisturbed... I also could see a sort of tiredness or something else revealing a very serious personality.

I decided to make him a gift before leaving his studio in 1990. In a cold morning of February I went to a tobacco shop and bought a beautiful leather cigar case. Happier than ever, I took it to our last appointment. He took the gift with deep seriousness but he didn’t even open it: he left the case on a shelf, he told me that I had no need to do such things and asked me to focus on the last point we had left to discuss... I felt totally puzzled and couldn’t dare to say anything, I listened to their latest words with the nerves of a young man who feels like having done wrong – and also with great incomprehension...

Therefore, I wasn't aware that I was opening a line of work that was going to be very fertile in the production of historiographical works on the punitive institutions, a work that has been recently promoted by young researchers who saw the need for further studies that I had just started. Today I can see with great satisfaction how the tools of sociology and critical theory (Benjamin, Adorno, the Angelus Novus and the sociological category of Memory, among others), have enlightened the reflections of so many young people who want to head an unlimited intellectual adventure that used to face so many resistances.

After all that, we have been meeting each other in many projects and different cities in Europe and Latin America: Rome, Padova, Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Mar del Plata, Mexico DF, Bogotá. I haven’t stopped bothering him during these last two decades. I asked him to write the foreword for a new book, to sign and accept to be part of the Scientific Committee in any research project and/or journal, both in Europe and in Latin America, to help me at various stages in the process of my promotion as a professor. He always agreed to help me with the same generosity. He was especially enthusiastic when we created the Observatory of the Penal System and Human Rights in the University of Barcelona, which he immediately agreed to join as a member of its International Scientific Committee – along with other professors and friends of similar political-academic affiliation.

In October 2014 I phoned him – again – to ask for his support to another academic adventure that the Observatory was setting out. He attended my call from a hospital in Bologna. By that conversation, I felt that we had not much time left and decided to travel to Bologna to pay him a visit.

This was the last time I saw him personally at home. On the way, I could walk again along the beautiful city of Bologna, with that mixture of nerves and anxiety caused by uncertainty about how I would find him. I spent that afternoon with him, and we talked for hours in his kitchen, drinking tea. He talked to me about his health and his illness with that dazzling clarity he always had, and that I have found in very few people. He spoke calmly (and concerned). He said: “all of us make mistakes when interpreted by certain sciences, we believed that this was an exact science, and at the end it’s pure semiotics”, referring to a medicine that failed in its interpretation of certain symptoms. Later, to explain his retirement from the University, he earnestly said that we have been extremely fortunate for having the chance to devote ourselves entirely to our passion and being able to do it from the University, an institution that, he added, suffers an irreparable crisis for not being able to incorporate young people and for surrendering to the economic managerial claims that should be alien to the alma mater. After another good time with him and Pirca – Massimo was very hopeful in getting to know her first and only granddaughter, who should be born a few months later –, I left them because they were going to the theatre, the hobby that – together with some music – he was in love with.

I didn't see him again, but we spoke a few times on the phone, especially after Matilde’s birth, which made him extremely happy. Every time I asked him about his health, he said “well enough, with a good quality of life”, avoiding any complaint or bitterness.

I still don’t know if Massimo opened the cigar case that I gave him 25 years ago, but I guess he did (he never said anything and I never asked). I don't know why my memories are concentrated in this story; like so many things in life, there are small details, indifferent to other people, that represent the summary or the signifier of an immensely rich relationship that has marked us forever.

Iñaki Rivera Beiras 

Brief excerpt/full text, in Spanish by Iñaki Rivera published in Critica Penal y Poder, nº 10, March 2016, Observatory of the Penal System and Human Rights, University of Barcelona -online at http://revistes.ub.edu/index.php/CriticaPenalPoder

Hasta siempre, Lolita Aniyar de Castro

"The game of legitimization has been refined and increasingly approaches the statement that 'to say is to do', by the way in which what is written and said is incorporated as one truth to civil consciousness. Thus, formal democracy ensures its continuity, but empty of content, exhausted in a purely procedural game. In this sense, the big crux of criminology through its history, for though it has not been always recognized, relapse in its relationships, expressed or implied, with a particular concept of democracy"

Aniyar de Castro, L., “Rasgando el velo de la politica criminal en America Latina o el rescate de Cesare Beccaria para la nueva criminologia”, in Cesare Beccaria and modern criminal policy (International Congress, Milan, December 15th -17th 1988), Giuffrè, Milano, 1990.

2015 has been a year of great losses for critical Criminology, but loosing Lolita is enormous for Latin American criminological criticism. Lola was a bright, sensitive, passionate woman, and firm in her principles.

Professor Lolita Aniyar was born May 8, 1937. She has a PhD in law and a postgraduate at the universities of Paris and Rome, she was Professor at the University of Zulia and researcher and lecturer at the Universidad de los Andes. She stood out, along with Rosa del Olmo, as one of the main exponents in Venezuelan and Latin American Critical Criminology. Her works include the books Criminology of Social Reaction (1976), Knowledge and Social Order (1981), Liberation Criminology (1987), In a Glove of Velvet (1992), Democracy and Criminal Justice (1992), State Secrets and Family (1997), Between Domination and Fear - New Criminology and New Criminal Policy (2003), and Human Rights Criminology (2010). She also published a raft of articles in specialized journals from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador, Panama, Chile, Spain, and Italy, and participated as a speaker in many international congresses of Criminology.

At the University of Zulia, she founded the Institute of Criminology currently bearing her name, giving life to the most important criminological journal in Venezuela: Criminological Chapter. Journal of the disciplines of Social Control. She was also the founder and coordinator of the Latin American Group of Critical Criminology, the Group for Comparative Studies in Criminology and the Latin American Master's Degree in Criminal Science and Criminology of the aforementioned University of Zulia. Her teaching was extended to prestigious Latin American and foreign universities: Universidad de Buenos Aires and Universidad Nacional de San Martín in Argentina, Universidad de Monterrey in Mexico, University of Chile, Universidade Candido Mendes in Brazil and University of New Mexico in the USA, amongst others.

Lolita was the Vice President of the International Society of Criminology (Paris) and the Venezuelan Society of Criminology, member of the Executive Committee of the Latin American Association of Criminal Law and Criminology (ALPEC), United Nations expert on crimes committed by abuse of power, Jury Member of the International Stockholm Criminology, Hermann Mannheim Prize of the International Society for Criminology, Distinguished Latin-American Scholar of the American Sociological Association, Simón Bolívar Prize for research of the University of Zulia, Medal of the Commune of Milan (Italy) and Golden Button of the University of Medellín (Colombia). But her academic activity and its commitment to transform an unfair reality was not limited to classrooms, universities, and publications or conferences. Lolita was also the first woman to accede to the posts of Deputy, Senator of the Republic to the former national Congress of Venezuela and Governor of the State of Zulia (1993-1995). In all these areas, she defended human rights in a militant way, put into practice their critical assumptions against the Penal System, and fought against administrative corruption. In the diplomatic area, Lolita was delegate of Venezuela to UNESCO and Venezuelan Consul in New Orleans, USA.
Lolita Aniyar de Castro was (and will be) a great teacher and a reference point for Latin American Critical Criminology, a school which she founded.

Keymer Ávila

 In Memoriam Herman Bianchi (1924-2015)

On the 30th of December 2015 Dutch critical criminologist Herman Bianchi passed away at the age of 91. Bianchi stood at the basis of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control in 1973 and hosted its third conference at his Free University Amsterdam in 1975 (Bianchi, Simondi & Taylor, 1975). Bianchi introduced both the labelling approach and critical criminology in the Netherlands and Flanders and he became best known for his penal abolitionism.

Bianchi has been very important for Dutch criminology. In 1953 he was the first research assistant in criminology, a discipline that until then was by and large a side-issue for criminal law professors. After he completed his doctoral thesis Position and Subject-Matter of Criminology in 1956 (which was, quite exceptional for that time, written in English), he was appointed as a Reader in criminology at the Free University Amsterdam in 1958 and he took the initiative to establish the first ‘real’ criminological journal in Dutch, the Tijdschrift voor Criminologie. When he became a full professor of criminology in 1961, he took initiative to strengthen the position of criminology at Dutch universities by founding the inter-university criminological contact-organ SICCO (Stichting Interuniversitair Criminologisch Contact Orgaan) and during his professorship, Bianchi established an Institute of Criminology at the Free University in Amsterdam in 1965, with several academic staffmembers and a four-year educational programme in criminology (after a two years’ ‘candidate’ degree in law or social sciences) in 1968.

From a contemporary perspective it is interesting to see how criminologists in the 1950s predominantly dealt with typical criminal law themes. Bianchi's initial focus on penal reform was no exception to this (Van Swaaningen 1997: 63-64, 118). We can, however, also observe how Bianchi's poetic exaggeration and emotional outbursts led to the criticism that he was too much of a partisan and too little scientific; that criticism would only become stronger in later phases of his career. Three years after his nomination as a full professor, with his book Ethics of Punishment (Ethiek van het straffen) from 1964, he both laid the foundations for his major legacy in criminology, the restorative justice approach, but herewith the rejection of his work by large parts of the criminological community also started.

Together with Louk Hulsman, Herman Bianchi has been amongst the founding fathers of Dutch penal abolitionism: the criminological perspective in which ‘crime’ as a valid concept and ‘punishment’ as a legitimate answer to that are rejected (Ruggiero 2010). In 1985, Bianchi took the second abolitionist conference ICOPA to his Free University in Amsterdam (Bianchi & van Swaaningen, 1986).

In Ethics of Punishment Bianchi criticises the fact that the victim is defined out in the penal process is and only plays a role in the background as a witness. Based on a Biblical vision of justice, called tsedeka in Hebrew, Bianchi developed an alternative model of justice in which both the ability of the offender to accept his responsibility and is willing to strive for reconciliation with the victim are taken into account. Only then, the moral order can be restored. Bianchi calls the situation of a morally sane society eunomie. This concept is already relatively close to the idea of reintegrative shaming, which would twenty-five odd years later become very influential (Braithwaite 1989). Later, most notably in his book, Justice as Sanctuary from 1985 (1994 for the English edition), Bianchi adds a procedural element here, which he calls assensus – as opposed to (false) consensus or (disruptive) dissensus. The issue is whether the conflicting parties can agree on the circumstances of the facts and which consequences must be attached to this, and not how the State feels about it.

In the mid-1960s, when students and other protesters were criminalised and arrested arbitrarily, Bianchi had embraced the labelling approach in criminology. This too leads him eventually to his abolitionist vision: the penal definition of problems must be unmasked by returning the definition power of the problem back to the conflicting parties. With this he argues along the same lines as Nils Christie, who in 1977 had published his influential article Conflict as Property. Bianchi adds that a so-called ‘sanctuary’, a safe haven for conflict resolution should be established, where police and justice authorities have no access. He bases this idea on the right of churches or embassies to grant people who are persecuted asylum. If the conflict mediation in a safe haven succeeds, the public prosecution should lose the right to prosecute. Although with safe havens for perpetrators of general offenses it has became nothing, there are still churches in which failed asylum seekers are taken care of.
With the introduction in the Netherlands of the labelling approach in the mid-1960s and critical criminology in the mid-1970s, Bianchi played a central role in the paradigmatic change in criminology that took place in the seventies. After a century in which criminology had almost been exclusively etiological and perpetrator focused, the emphasis was now placed on the social responses to crime. In less than ten years the discipline had changed completely from a criminology of the law-breaker to a criminology of the lawmaker.

This is also the time that Bianchi has been the most active in the European Group. Bianchi (1974a, 1980: 302-7) accounts of "sleep¬ing-bag and sit-inn conferences", which are a "true relief" in comparison to the conferences of the International Society of Criminology, with their ladies programmes and posh conference sites, where criminologists discuss, in Mussolini's Italy mainly about problems of the level of bicycle theft, and later in Franco's Spain, in close harmony with Latin American participants in fine military uniforms, about virtually the same. The aim of the European Group to free criminology from this suspect ideology and to reform it into a critical discourse on state-organised social control was wholeheartedly supported by Bianchi.
Bianchi's still challenging book ‘Basic Models in Criminology’ (Basismodellen in de kriminologie) from 1980 was in many ways the continental European, Dutch answer to Taylor, Walton and Young’s book The New Criminology – including the sometimes bantering way in which ‘mainstream’ perspectives in criminology were dealt with. But, Basismodellen was composed along a strongly Foucauldian historical line and implied a radical reform agenda, that was strongly influenced by Thomas Mathiesen’s book The Politics of Abolition from 1974. The book may have been widely criticised for sloppiness and one-sidedness, but it did confront students with the implied human and worldviews behind so-called ‘purely scientific’ findings and it suggested to bring seemingly obvious things to discussion.

An ‘anti-establishment’ and ‘anti-conventional’ position was already visible in Bianchi’s earliest works; implicit in the 1950s, but way more explicit from the 1960s on. In his doctoral dissertation from 1956 Bianchi calls for a disconnection of criminology from criminal law, since it has reduced the criminology to an auxiliary science. He argues that criminologists can learn most from the phenomenological anthropologists. Later, historical studies were added. Comparative ‘cross cultural’ and ‘cross time’ analyses are, according to Bianchi (1980: 409-410), necessary to maintain the reflexive, scientific character of criminology, in a period of time in which especially practical recommendations within political determined frameworks are being asked for.

Bianchi (1974b) opposed a reduction of criminology to an applied policy science that he saw coming. He made a distinction between ‘governmental’ criminology, which serves the penal establishment with policy-recommendations and a ‘non-governmental’ criminology in which a critical position, outside of the state apparatus is taken. This article, which is one of Bianchi’s most cited works, is actually much more modest than how it was read in the 1970s, when it was widely suggested that Bianchi would have claimed that ‘real’ criminology was only possible at the university and that at the WODC, the research department of the Dutch Ministry of Justice, only ‘His Masters Voice’ was being heard.
After his retirement in 1988, Bianchi did not engage explicitly with criminological themes anymore. Because criminologists especially contributed to the public exclusion of vulnerable groups, he always thought that it was a ‘science of disgrace’, and that had only become worse after his retirement. Freemasonry and mystics like Hildegard von Bingen began to take a more central role in his life. After his retirement, he also exchanged his name ‘Herman’, which he has always hated as a pacifist, because of the reminiscences of an ancient German word for soldier, for ‘Thomas’. When he saw that, next to the unmistakable positivist turn in criminology, also the restorative justice approach had become very popular, Bianchi became more interested in his previous field of study again. Today, the Dutch Prize for restorative justice initiatives is even called the Bianchi Prize.

Herman Bianchi has left an unmistakable mark on the development of Dutch criminology from the 1950s to the 1990s. The hey-days of his career were in the 1970s, when he nearly had the status of a guru for a generation that wanted to change the world. Intuitively, he foresaw quite a few of the social and legal developments that would take place in the 2000s remarkably adequately. And he never doubted that at one point in time, restorative responses to what is called ‘crime’ today’ would

Bianchi, Herman (1956) Position and subject-matter of criminology; inquiry concerning theoretical criminology. Amsterdam: North Holland Publishers.
Bianchi, Herman (1974a) York en Florence; op weg naar een nieuwe criminologie (?), in: Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Criminologie vol.16, pp.3 17
Bianchi, Herman (1974b) Goevernementele en non-goevernementele kriminologie; een meta-probleem, in: Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Criminologie vol.16, pp.201-217
Bianchi, Herman (1980) Basismodellen in de kriminolo¬gie. Deven¬ter: Van Loghum Slaterus.
Bianchi, Herman (1994) Justice as sanctuary: toward a new system of crime control. Bloomington: Indiana University Press
Bianchi, Herman, Simondi, Mario & Taylor, Ian (eds.) (1975) Deviance and Control in Europe: Papers from the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control. London, etc.: John Wiley & Sons.
Bianchi, Herman & Swaaningen, René van (eds.) (1986) Abolitionism; towards a non-repressive approach to crime. Amsterdam: Free University Press
Braithwaite, John (1989) Crime, shame and reintegration. Cambridge: Cambridge Univer¬si¬ty Press.
Christie, Nils (1977) ‘Conflicts as Property’, The British Journal of Criminology 17: 1-15.
Mathiesen, Thomas (1974) The Politics of Abolition. Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
Ruggiero, Vincenzo (2010) Penal Abolitionism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Swaaningen, René van (1997) Critcal Criminology – Visions from Europe. London etc.: Sage.
Taylor, Ian, Walton, Paul & Young, Jock (1973) The New Criminology; for a social theory of deviance. London: RKP

About the author: René van Swaaningen is a Professor of International Criminology at the Erasmus University Rotterdam and he is currently Head of this university's Criminology Department. He received his PhD at the Erasmus University Rotterdam on a thesis on the historical and empirical development of critical criminology in Europe. In the 1980s, he has extensively worked together with Herman Bianchi at the Free University Amsterdam. Amongst other things he organised the second abolitionist conference with him, and Bianchi also supervised his master-thesis. René has in the 1980s and 90s been active in the European Group, for which he has been a steering committee member for many years and he organised the 1990 European Group conference in Haarlem, in the Netherlands.

Jason Ditton (1949-2015) 

Jason Ditton provided an enormous contribution to the development of critical criminology and the sociology of deviance in the early-mid 1970s. A PhD student and colleague of Stan Cohen at Durham University, he provided one of the most engaging and famous sociological ethnographies of the 1970s. The book of his PhD thesis, Part-time Crime: An Ethnography of Fiddling and Pilferage (Macmillan, 1977) is still often today cited as an exemplary piece of scholarship and at the time of publication was very well received, described widely as a hugely informative and entertaining text – see for examples the reviews of the book in Sociological Review, Punch and the Times Higher Education Supplement. For his PhD Ditton undertook a year-long ethnographic study in 1973 of the ‘Wellbread’ bakery, with his specific focus on the role and rationalisations of bread salesman. His study uncovered not only the normalisation of ‘fiddling and pilferage’ amongst bread deliverers, but also how bread salesmen effectively neutralised their behaviour and challenged the application of the criminal label. In this important and fascinating study, Ditton questioned core assumptions about the meaning of ‘crime’ and identified how a blind eye was often turned to the deliberate fiddling of customers by managers of the firm. The depth and richness of the ethnography produced hugely compelling findings and Ditton found himself becoming totally immersed within his research. Indeed, following the conclusion of the ethnography Ditton not only missed doing the research, but was also invited back to work as a bread salesman when the company was short staffed.

The ethnographic research for his PhD also informed his second book, Contrology: Beyond the New Criminology (Macmillan, 1979). In this text Ditton aimed to provide a more solid foundation for the labelling approach, proposing the neologism ‘controlology’ as a replacement for criminology. He wanted to transform labelling from a perspective into a theory and develop upon the basic premise that on a societal level control created ‘crime’. The many insights of the text included the reworking of ‘deviancy amplification’ along a ‘business model’ so that it could both explain the rise and fall of recorded crime; to challenge the existence of the ‘dark figure of crime’ by arguing that a ‘crime’ could only exist once it had been defined as such through the judicial process; and to highlight how it is the presence of the ‘offended’ rather than the ‘offender’ that is necessary for the commission of ‘crime’. Criminal activity could only be understood through ‘control-waves’ at societal level. Common sense assumptions, such as the assumption of a ‘dark figure’ of crime should be abandoned, as should in-fact criminology. He ended the book with the following assertion:

“Contrology, or the final liberation from ‘criminology’, must include liberation from those lay opinions and attitudes (common sense) of which positivistic criminology is merely an intellectual extension and costly justification.” (Ditton, 1979: 105-6)

Jason Ditton was a prolific writer over last the four decades, providing contributions to debates on crime prevention, drug-taking and the fear of crime, among many others. His body of work provides a great resource and intellectual inspiration for writers and researchers working today both with, and struggling to escape from, common sense approaches to ‘crime’. He will be sadly missed.

David Scott

Jason Ditton
Born: February 13, 1949;
Died: November 6, 2015

Jason Ditton, who has died aged 66, was a pioneer of criminology in Scotland. Born in Ipswich, he studied sociology at Durham University (B.A.Hons., Ph.D.) and in 1977 went on to Glasgow University first as lecturer, then as senior lecturer from 1991. He founded the first Criminology Research Unit in 1988 at Glasgow University and in 1994 created the first Scottish Centre for Criminology in Park Circus, Glasgow. In the same year he moved to Sheffield University as reader, became professor of criminology in 1997 and remained at Sheffield until he retired in 2006. His decision to leave Glasgow University and to establish the Scottish Centre for Criminology at Park Circus was motivated by the university's focus on promoting an international reputation and its lack of recognition for his research on Scottish issues. Whilst at Sheffield he was able to continue as director of the Scottish Centre for Criminology and maintain his commitment to working on local Scottish issues. He conducted his empirical research in Scotland, about Scotland and for Scotland. Throughout these years, Glasgow remained his home. His PH.D thesis formed the basis of his first book, Part-Time Crime: An Ethnography of Fiddling and Pilferage (1977), a seminal study of what is now known as the informal economy (earlier known as the black or hidden economy). When he arrived at Glasgow he fully intended to continue his internationally focussed research in this area but soon swivelled his research eye to focus on Scottish social problems. His remarkable productivity over the years included innovative and influential research on crime in the Scottish media; rehabilitation in HMP Low Moss; heroin addiction in Glasgow; monitoring Scottish drug use agencies; probation in Scotland; evaluating Scottish syringe exchanges; safety in Castlemilk; cocaine use in Scotland; lighting and crime prevention in Airdrie; illicit drug use in HMP Barlinnie; crime and fear of crime in Castlemilk; Easterhouse safety audit; reducing housebreaking in Govan; developing a model crime survey for Scotland; drug use by ethnic minorities in Scotland; ecstasy use in Scotland; CCTV and crime in Glasgow; fear of crime in Scotland; Scottish ecstasy users on holiday abroad; forecasting drug user numbers in Scotland; the rise of heroin addiction in Glasgow. In all of this work, he astutely combined his main academic interests in the sociology of deviance, criminology, ethnography and social science research methods more generally. As a thinker, he was free, creative and intellectually brave. He was, undoubtedly, one of the brightest, energetic and imaginative criminologists of his time. In his many significant contributions to policy and practice debate he was one of the few voices in Scotland to argue for a thoroughly moral, rational and knowledge-based approach to understanding crime and justice. Nowhere was this more evident than in his pioneering research on the rapid escalation of heroin use in some of Glasgow's bleak public housing estates which were swept by an unparalleled and unexpected tide of black market heroin in the late 1970s and early 80s. Characteristically he had the vision to identify what would become an immense and enduring social problem if the policy recommendations flowing from his research report to the then Scottish Office were not urgently addressed. I can look back and see the young Jason Ditton arguing convincingly for the publication of that report back in 1981. We were in the office next to his in Southpark Avenue with the 'massed ranks of the cautious' (his turn of phrase for the Scottish Office and local government officials present) asking for 'more time to consider the implications'. In the end the report was published but tragically the policy recommendations lay dormant. His early research on heroin nonetheless played a crucial role in maintaining legitimacy and funding for the social sciences at a time when Margaret Thatcher's government was intent on closing down the then Social Science Research Council (SSRC). His statistically modelled graph of the rapid escalation of heroin use in Glasgow formed the frontispiece to Lord Rothschild's Report, An Enquiry into the Social Science Research Council, published in May 1982. The significance of Professor Ditton's research was singled out in the Rothschild Report as the key example of precisely why social science is important to society.

After parliamentary scrutiny and wide debate on the report, the continuing independence of the SSRC was assured, albeit renamed as the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Professor Ditton himself went on to conduct several important large-scale, ESRC-funded research studies as well as many Scottish Office and Scottish commercially funded research projects. On the wider cultural scene, he was an active member of the executive council of the Scottish Association for the Study of Offending (1989-99), founder and first editor of the Scottish Journal of Criminal Justice Studies (1989-2009), member of the Visiting Committee, Polmont Young Offenders' Institution (1993-97) and member of the Visiting Committee, Her Majesty's Prison Barlinnie (1997-2015). In all of these positions, and with his own distinctive quiet professionalism and personal integrity, he brought countless insights for programmes of reform and change in responses to law-breaking and other social harms. There are generations of students and junior colleagues who testify to his superb qualities as a teacher and mentor, and who remember his warmth, wit, generosity and humour. For someone who was so accomplished and productive in his research and in advancing the cause of social science, he was surprisingly modest and never the least bit pompous or self-important. To those of us fortunate enough to know him well, he was not only blessed with a genuinely original mind, but was also a loyal, generous, charming, attentive and kind friend with a wonderfully wry sense of humour who liked to laugh. Scotland will miss him greatly. He is survived by his first wife, from whom he was divorced in 1978; and his second wife, Furzana, whom he married in 2015. Jackie Tombs

Publications by Jason Ditton

Ditton, Jason (1977) Part-Time Crime: An Ethnography of Fiddling and Pilferage, London, Macmillan; New York, St. Martin's Press
Ditton, Jason (1979) Controlology: Beyond the New Criminology, London, Macmillan; New York, St. Martin's Press ISBN 0 333 29565 3, 124 pp.
Ditton, Jason (1980) The View from Goffman, (edited collection), London, Macmillan; New York, St. Martin's Press
Ditton, Jason & Ford, Roslyn (1994) The Reality of Probation: A Formal Ethnography of Process and Practice, Aldershot, Gower
Ditton, Jason (1996) Natural Criminology: An Essay on the Fiddle, Pressgang, Glasgow
Ditton, Jason & Farrall, Steven (eds) (2000) The Fear of Crime, International Library of Criminology, Criminal Justice and Penology, Dartmouth, Aldershot
Hammersley, Richard, Khan, Furzan & Ditton, Jason (2001) Ecstasy and the rise of the chemical generation, Routledge, London


Remembering Nils Christie


Nils Christie, who has died aged 87, was one of Norway’s foremost social scientists, and was known all over the world as an outstanding criminological thinker.

Christie was associated with the Faculty of Law from the time the Institute of Criminology and Penal law was founded in 1954. He took his doctorate in 1959, and in the same year became a lecturer in criminology. The Faculty thus got its first researcher and teacher in criminology as a specialization. In 1966 he became Norway’s first professor of criminology. For a number of years he was Head of Department, and after reaching retirement age, he stayed on as Professor Emeritus. Until the last he remained actively involved in both the criminological and the public discourse.

Christie was the doyen of Norwegian criminology. A free and principled thinker, he time and again set the agenda, both in research and criminal justice discussions. He was awarded honorary degrees by the University of Sheffield, the University of Copenhagen and the University of Stockholm. He wrote 15 books, which have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Christie received a number of awards, both national and international. The award he cherished most was the Freedom of Expression Award of 2001.

Christie was an inspiring and supportive colleague and teacher. Generations of criminologists and legal scholars throughout the world will mourn the loss of an academic idol. Those who were privileged to be Christie’s colleagues or students will remember him as a decent and friendly person– mild in manner, sharp in mind. He is survived by his wife Hedda and his children.

Hans Petter Graver, Dean of the Faculty of Law
Heidi Mork Lomell, Head of the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law


Nils Christie has passed away. He died on 27 May of this year, following a traffic accident. The surgeons did everything to save his life. They didn't manage.

KROM - The Norwegian Association of Penal Reform, symbolically received the message of Nils' death during our Annual Meeting,  which, at that, took place on the anniversary of the founding meeting of KROM (27 May 1968).

Nils' sudden passing away is a terrible tragedy to all of us. To his family and close relatives, of course, but also to his many friends and colleagues at home and abroad, and to Norwegian society and the world.

He was one of the founders of criminology in Norway. His many books, which were translated into many languages, testify to that. But he was much more than a criminologist. He was widely and deeply engaged in several of the major problem areas of the society in which he lived. Schools and education were one of those areas.  His book "What if we didn't have schools?" ("Hvis skolen ikke fantes") has become a classic in Norway. The way in which the book posed a major question is typical of Nils Christie.

He was also engaged internationally. His participation and many lectures and talks at the many small and large conferences and seminars are a token of this. Through his international engagement he received a number of honorary awards in many countries.

But it was the modern punitive practices of many countries that preoccupied him in particular. He strongly held that words easily become empty. We need new words which do not hide reality. Rather than using the word "punishment", he liked to talk about "pain" and "pain infliction". A society needs far less "pain infliction" .

Three further notions characterized his activity as a university teacher, in Norway as well as in other countries. Firstly, his ability to nurture good ideas, making them blossom and become even better. Many generations of students - and young as well as elderly researchers - have benefitted from this ability.

Secondly, his originality. He had a superb ability to think in original terms where others were more mundane. He often posed original counter-questions which made others - also others who thought differently - consider new ideas and thoughts.

Thirdly, he was also original in a different way: He was, pure and simple, an Inventor! Inventions are made by technicians and people in the natural sciences. But also by social scientists - now and then. I here give you two examples.

In the first place, the invention of Conflict Resolution Boards. Conflicts which contain elements of "crime" (Nils did not like the word) are brought back to those who own them; that is, they are pulled out of the hands of lawyers and criminal justice agencies. In Conflict Resolution Boards the conflicts are (ideally) transformed into discussions between human beings, where solutions are found. Conflict Resolution Boards represent a long history. Nils Christie is by far the most important inventor in question.

Secondly, the invention of the "importation model" in criminal policy. The "importation model" is even more representative of Nils Christie' ability to think of other ways of doing things than the ordinary. In earlier times, specialists  like medical doctors, teachers, social workers and others were employed by the prison system or the prison governor. Christie's idea, his invention,  was to employ them quite differently. He proposed to employ them outside the prison system, and to bring them into, or import them, from the outside and into the prison system.  The aim was to alleviate at least some of the pressure from the prison system.

I remember so well the exact time when Nils Christie in fact made the invention of the "importation model". On a cool evening in the fall of 1969 Nils was sitting in the rear of a bus full of lively people. They were on their way to the first large KROM conference in the mountains, where they were going to discuss criminal policy. The conferences have been held nearly every year since, the last one in 2014. Nils was writing avidly on his lecture for the next day, on models for prison organizations, including the "importation model". He gave the lecture the next morning. It was a success. Much may be said about the "importation model", but it is extremely important and put into practice in most Norwegian prisons today.

The lecture from 1969 is printed  in a book published by KROM, called "Instead of prison" ("I stedet for fengsel"), edited by Rita Østensen in 1970.

Those of us who knew Nils Christie will miss him greatly. A great thinker and close friend has passed away.      

Thomas Mathiesen, professor emeritus at the University of Oslo; member of Political Committee of KROM.


I first got to know Nils when I began my studies in criminology in 1983. He was a fantastic lecturer, who always had an open channel to his students. He was characterized by a special kindness and his mild manner. He asked questions which made it necessary for us to think again: Is the way things are the way they should be? Could central institutions in our society such as schools, prisons and the judicial system be organized differently? Could they be more humane and more inclusive? He was no admirer of elites. For him, we are all people and academics should write so that everyone can understand our intention, the meanings behind the words and the functions of the institutions. We learnt to write for our favorite aunt. Simplicity is a key word. He taught me the need to pay attention to the intentional and true meaning of language. 

Political activism is a central part of critical criminology. He personalized this when he chained himself together with the other activists to protest against the building of the Alta river power plant in 1981, for which he paid his fine. He protested against the destruction of nature and in favor of the Sami people. In so doing he was not only an example to follow for critical criminologists, but also for green criminologists.  We are not detached from the world, the world is where we are, and where we should act, whether directly, through our writings and through our contact with the general public, through public debate, and we should do this constantly.

Later I was lucky to become his colleague. And I learnt that I did not agree with Nils in all topics, but I also learnt that it is possible to discuss and disagree in a spirit of friendship and respect. It is possible to word the harshest critique in a friendly, open and curious tone. And Nils would listen. Although he remained true to his convictions, such as the need for small communities characterized by social proximity, he would always be open to arguments which were against his own understanding. His meanings were not set in stone but were the result of thorough and knowledge based reflection. Yet, as in the case of his good friend Stan Cohen, animals seemed to remain excluded. Despite this, he welcomed our endeavors to include them in our research; this is also criminology. He was open-minded.

His work and the insight he gained from the Norwegian study about the guards in the Norwegian concentration camp during World War 2 remained with him throughout his career.   No matter what kind of a crime a person has committed, there are no monsters, as there are no crimes. With such views he certainly invited debate and disagreement, yet respect should and could always have its place.   

No matter in what field of criminology one would like to position oneself, Nils Christie will always have something to offer because his theories have wide application and offer deep, and often surprising, insights. Coming to the Institute, knowing that he is no longer there is sad; knowing that what he wrote will always be here is comforting.

Ragnhild Sollund, Professor, University of Oslo


No future without forgiveness: personal memories of Nils Christie

I have many fond memories of Nils Christie but when I now think about Nils, there are two that especially come to mind.

The first memory is from the winter of 2009. I had just started working at the Department in Oslo. Part of my job as press contact/web editor/research consultant was creating media buzz around the research at the department.  We got the idea – novel at the time – to publish lectures in criminology on YouTube. I asked Nils, and he immediately agreed. I remember we walked through the snow and down the windy Universitetsgata (University Street) to the old Faculty building Domus Academica in the city center, stopping on the way to talk to one who Nils called “an old friend of mine”. The old friend was a Roma lady whose favorite spot to sit was – as it still is – outside the entrance to the university garden. When we arrived in the room – Kollegieværelset – we had chosen to film the session, we just pressed play on the recorder – and immediately, seemingly effortless, Nils started explaining why this room, why this place where we were sitting was so important to him. Having spent more than 50 years at the Faculty of Law, I felt as a welcomed guest to his home. I remember sitting there listening, somewhat awestruck at the fortune of being given a “private” lecture by a man who to me – given my interest in history – was the very embodiment of the history of Norwegian criminology.  Although the technical qualities of our “YouTube experiment” leaves much to be desired – shot with a borrowed hand-held camera, at times with a blurry focus, at times with poor sound quality – Nils managed to transcend these technical limitations by his sheer presence and oratory skills. To me this film on YouTube is one of many examples of how he would captivate audiences by telling stories, stories that illuminated and made one think, or perhaps the way he would put it: how telling small stories can provide answers to big questions.

My second favorite memory is also of Nils telling stories: this time his version of the parable of the lost son.

I think it was in 2012 that we had a group visiting from Poland. I might be mistaken about the year. Every year for as long as I have been working at the Department, people from all over the world come to meet Nils. I do remember though that this group came from Poland, though not from where in Poland. Some were from NGOs; some were formal government official types. Their interest was in the Norwegian form of restorative justice – so they wanted to meet the Founding Father of the Norwegian Mediation Service. Cutting through formalities in his kind manner, Nils told them that to him the idea of mediation was a simple one. To explain, he told the visitors that a few years back he had visited a museum in Poland  close to where they lived and seen a painting of the biblical story of the prodigal son. It is not that Nils was a religious person to my knowledge – this was not his intention with telling this story. I think it was more that by starting with something familiar for this group of Polish visitors he managed to communicate across language barriers and other barriers his profound humanist message, a message which is one I especially admire him for.  As I understand it, it is this: that it is possible to tell a person that we see what you do, we know what you have done, we do not always like it or will accept it, but still, no matter what, you can always return – become part of society and the community – part of us.

Just after the tragedy of the 2011 Norway attacks, Nils once again publicly communicated this message – though not in the form of a story of a mythical family reunion. Just a few weeks after the attack, newspaper headlines read “My hope is that Anders Breivik will come back to society”. Nils quoted Desmond Tutu that there is no future without forgiveness.  This stirred quite a bit of controversy in a country still trying to grasp the horrors of what had happened. Many reacted and felt that it was too soon to say something like this, that feelings were still too raw, also that he was wrong: that Breivik should never be allowed to come back to society. I remember feeling torn. I partly agreed with the critics – but on the other hand, I felt blessed to be living in a country where someone could dare to voice this message even in a troubled time.

I still do not know if I quite believe Nils; that monsters do not exist and that forgiveness and tolerance is for everyone. Yet I will deeply miss – in private conversations and in the public discourse – this gentle man of principle

Per Jørgen Ystehede, University of Oslo


Hasta siempre, Nils.

My first encounter with criminology was through Nils’ book Limits to Pain. It couldn’t have been a more fantastic experience. I was lucky to be introduced to criminology through a book that combined deep criminological ideas with a smooth and simple writing style. Nils was eternally in love with the academia, writing was his passion, and as a result his books have an aesthetic style that only true fervor allows. Lying on the grass at the “Universidad Nacional” Campus, in Bogotá, bored with law classes where dogmas were repeated over and over again, Nils offered me a door to another dimension. The new world I entered was not an imaginary place but our own very mundane world painted with a thousand new colors from the brush of Nils’ unique perspective. Inevitably the book broadened my mind, and for that gift I can never be grateful enough.

Oslo is not a common destination for Colombians. However, I was lucky enough to see my dream of doing my PhD studies here realized. To meet Nils in the elevator was part of the fairy tale. In the short space of time that it took us to go from the ground floor to the sixth floor where his office was, he would think of several research topics and ask many interesting questions. Nils’ was able to stimulate your imagination with the most simply stated question.

If I was required to describe him with one word I would use generous. Many afternoons he would gift me with his time, chatting with me about life; because life was his main research topic. As a souvenir he left me the notebook where while talking with him I scrawled his insights.  As a proof of his generosity he presented me with his most valued possession: his ideas. “In science, the more people steal from you, the happier you should be” he said.

I still have in my mind the image of the last time I saw him, waving his hand in farewell and smiling while leaving my office. That recollection seems like a dream, but then again from my first encounter with his book to our last farewell, having Nils around always seemed like a dream, a dream I wish to always keep with me. Truth is that I want to carry forever with me the lessons that he gave me both through his books and through the time we spent together. That’s why I can only say “hasta siempre, Nils”.

David Rodríguez Goyes, PhD Student, University of Oslo


De grande quisiera ser como Nils Christie Anoche falleció una de las mentes más brillantes del pensamiento criminológico: Nils Christie. He tratado de pensar en su legado y su influencia en mi propia formación, la de mis alumnos e incluso mis profesores. Creo que es una tarea vana. Su trabajo es sin duda uno de los más importantes en la crítica a los abusos y la irracionalidad de los sistemas penales en el mundo. El poder de sus ideas radica justamente en algo que ningún criminólogo latinoamericano ha podido lograr: traducir la erudición, la complejidad de las ideas y el pensamiento interdisciplinario en palabras realmente claras y sencillas, que se entiendan por cualquier persona. Muchas tardes y noches me partí la cabeza tratando de entender la jerigonza de la dogmática alemana siempre con diccionario a la mano, sin tener claro (aún hoy) de haber comprendido con claridad los alcances de la arquitectura de la imputación objetiva. Eso nunca me ocurrió leyendo a Christie. Mirando retrospectivamente, creo que si algo me influyó para ser criminólogo fue la contundencia de su claridad y la posibilidad de ver el mundo fuera de la caja negra del castigo y la penalidad. Siempre tuve la impresión cuando leía sus relatos sobre los KROM y las prácticas de justicia restaurativa (el ejemplo del televisor roto me acompañará hasta que deje los salones de clase), que los vikingos y en especial los noruegos, vivían en una sociedad fantástica, casi irreal, donde el recurso a la violencia no era la solución primera, y donde el amor y la racionalidad eran el arma principal para lucha contra la barbarie. Mi amor por Nils y su pensamiento no ha estado exento de rupturas. Admiro que en uno de sus más lindos trabajos, una sensata cantidad de delito, él se haya marginado con contundencia del abolicionismo ortodoxo. No obstante, sigo sin aceptar su manera de leer la necesidad del perdón frente a las atrocidades de la segunda guerra mundial, y no logró ver como la justicia restaurativa puede ser una solución eficaz en países como Colombia que deben asumir las consecuencias de 50 años de barbarie y atrocidad, sin utilizar ese complejo artefacto cultural que es el castigo. Tengo sobre mi escritorio la traducción de varios de sus últimos trabajos, Vida social un lenguaje para interpretar, y espero poder sentarme a leerlo ahora que tengo muchos más años pero las mismas ganas de aprender de sus palabras desestructurantes. De grande quisiera ser como Nils Christie…

Camilo Ernesto Bernal Sarmiento Medellín, Colombia 28 de mayo de 2015

I was shocked to hear about Nils' death and will miss his gentle, warming presence. The spirit he embodied and core concerns of his works, remain with me. His work impressed me from my first encounters with it while studying criminology in Hamburg where he guest-lectured. Amongst others his 'Conflicts as property' inspired me as did his concept of 'ideal victim', both problematise alienation, Nils in contrast was a very grounded human being. He often shared funny and happy stories about his long and deep friendship with the late wonderful Ivan Illich, now both are gone.

Andrea Beckmann

I was just one of the very many people honored with an invitation by Nils to Oslo. During the trip I met a senior Prison administrator who predictably suggested that he was somewhat naive. She finished her comments, however, by saying in a very sincere tone 'of course he is THE good man of Oslo'. 


I want to share with all of you my deep sadness for Nils Christie’s departure. He is an inspiring guide in the critical approach of social control and prison studies, and in the abolitionist perspective; but even more a dear friend. I just met him in Padua two months ago, and it was such a warm experience. His loss gives us the inheritance of a stronger engagement in contrasting the violence of institutional control. Let's stay together.

Beppe Mosconi

L’Ecole des sciences criminologiques de l’ULB est triste d’apprendre la perte de cette grande figure. Il y a des événements dans la vie qui procurent de la douleur, et celui si en fait partie.

Carla Nagels

Nils Christie was a visionary and a warm, kind soul. His greatness as a writer in English was that he wrote English with a Norwegian resonance. The authenticity of his Nordic soul intoned from the text.

John Braithwaite

Another great person of our community gone. He leaves a legacy behind him which we will continue to utilise. God speed Nils

Kaaren Malcom

Nils Christie, the most gentle giant of criminology, will be missed by everyone who had the privilege to know him - and as an orientation for everyone looking for alternatives to the status quo in criminal policy.

Here is a brief obituary from Germany:

Sanft, aber bestimmt: Nils Christie (24.02.1928 – 27.05.2015)

veröffentlicht von Sebastian am 28. Mai 2015 ·

Für diese Nachricht einen Anfang zu finden fällt mir schwer und was den Schluss angeht, sehe ich dieselbe Schwierigkeit voraus, aber es gibt einen Begriff, der mir sofort einfiel und der mir so beharrlich im Wege des Schreibens steht, dass er wohl den Anfang machen muss, soll überhaupt noch etwas folgen: Nils Christie umgab eine Aura.

Ein schwer zu fassendes und jedenfalls immaterielles Feld an Schwingungen und Einflüssen, das mich wie so viele, die das Glück hatten, ihm zu begegnen, wie mit einer Magnetkraft anzog, aber auch zugleich zu verwandeln und zu verbessern schien. Tage mit Nils Christie, in Berlin oder vor vier Wochen noch in Padua, waren eine eigene Art der Wellness-Kur.

Das Wort Aura passt allerdings auch insofern, als es ursprünglich die griechische Göttin der Morgenbrise bezeichnete, und genau diese Funktion kam auch dem Vortrag in Sheffield zu, der Nils Christie berühmt machen sollte: “Conflicts as Property” (British Journal of Criminology 1977 17 (1) 1-15) brachte frischen Wind in die Kriminologie und die Rechtssoziologie und verlieh der Diskussion um Alternativen zur strafenden Gerechtigkeit neuen Schwung. Die gesamte Strömung der restorative justice – die er als Vordenker mit begründete und stets auch mit kritischem Blick auf den Begriff sowie vor allem auf die Gefahren der Institutionalisierung und Professionalisierung begleitete – wäre ohne ihn nie und nimmer das, was sie heute (immerhin schon oder noch) ist.

In jüngster Zeit sprach Nils Christie wieder öfter über sein Erstlingswerk aus dem Jahre 1952: seine Gespräche mit KZ-Wächtern und die Reflexion über die zahllosen damit verbundenen Fragen hatten vieles von dem, was sein Lehrer Andenaes ihm über die Rechtfertigung von Strafe beigebracht hatte, ins Wanken geraten lassen. Viele Kenner seines Werkes sehen denn auch einen roten Faden der Strafproblematisierung, der sich durch sein gesamtes Oeuvre zieht. Mal unter dem Gesichtspunkt von “Grenzen des Leids” (1982), dann unter dem einer scharfen Kritik des prison-industrial complex (“Kriminalitätskontrolle als Industrie”, 1995); und selbst die  five dangers ahead für restorative justice (2009) und sein letzter Aufsatz über die Figur der Justitia (“Lady Justice”, 2015) warnten vor den Kräften der Entfremdung, die das Verstehen und Heilen so schwer und das Strafen so leicht werden lassen.

Scherzhaft hatte er in den vergangen Jahren den Gedanken an die Gründung einer Rückschrittspartei ins Spiel gebracht; das passte zu der Kritik, der er sich seitens Trutz von Trothas und anderer ausgesetzt gesehen hatte, dass seine Vorstellungen von alternativer Konfliktregelung mit den Erfordernissen einer modernen Gesellschaft unvereinbar seien – und dass sie selbst dann, wenn sie machbar wären, nicht zu wünschen seien. Er hielt tatsächlich viel vom Dorf- und Gemeinschaftsleben, beklagte die Aushöhlung der Infrastruktur und den Verlust sozialen Lebens auf dem Lande und verbrachte ja auch immer wieder längere Zeit in Vidarasen, einer therapeutischen Gemeinschaft auf der Grundlage einer sanften und menschenfreundlichen Weltanschauung.

Der nötigende Zwang politischer Korrektheit konnte ihn nicht unterkriegen: sanft, aber bestimmt wies er jede Einmischung der Polizei zurück, als er als Institutsdirektor einmal mit einem größeren Betrugsfall zu tun hatte – das machte Schlagzeilen und frustrierte die Strafverfolgungsbehörden; sanft, aber bestimmt vertrat er seine nicht immer hinreichend “linken” Ideen auch noch vor kurzer Zeit bei der Osloer Jubiläumstagung der European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control.

Als der 87-jährige Nils am Dienstag dieser Woche in den Morgenstunden in Oslo wie immer auf seinem Fahrrad unterwegs war, führte ein Unfall mit einer Straßenbahn zu schweren Kopfverletzungen, denen er tags darauf erlag

Für diese Nachricht einen Anfang zu finden fällt mir schwer und was den Schluss angeht, sehe ich dieselbe Schwierigkeit voraus, aber es gibt einen Begriff, der mir sofort einfiel und der mir so beharrlich im Wege des Schreibens steht, dass er wohl den Anfang machen muss, soll überhaupt noch etwas folgen: Nils Christie umgab eine Aura.

Ein schwer zu fassendes und jedenfalls immaterielles Feld an Schwingungen und Einflüssen, das mich wie so viele, die das Glück hatten, ihm zu begegnen, wie mit einer Magnetkraft anzog, aber auch zugleich zu verwandeln und zu verbessern schien. Tage mit Nils Christie, in Berlin oder vor vier Wochen noch in Padua, waren eine eigene Art der Wellness-Kur.

Das Wort Aura passt allerdings auch insofern, als es ursprünglich die griechische Göttin der Morgenbrise bezeichnete, und genau diese Funktion kam auch dem Vortrag in Sheffield zu, der Nils Christie berühmt machen sollte: “Conflicts as Property” (British Journal of Criminology 1977 17 (1) 1-15) brachte frischen Wind in die Kriminologie und die Rechtssoziologie und verlieh der Diskussion um Alternativen zur strafenden Gerechtigkeit neuen Schwung. Die gesamte Strömung der restorative justice – die er als Vordenker mit begründete und stets auch mit kritischem Blick auf den Begriff sowie vor allem auf die Gefahren der Institutionalisierung und Professionalisierung begleitete – wäre ohne ihn nie und nimmer das, was sie heute (immerhin schon oder noch) ist.

In jüngster Zeit sprach Nils Christie wieder öfter über sein Erstlingswerk aus dem Jahre 1952: seine Gespräche mit KZ-Wächtern und die Reflexion über die zahllosen damit verbundenen Fragen hatten vieles von dem, was sein Lehrer Andenaes ihm über die Rechtfertigung von Strafe beigebracht hatte, ins Wanken geraten lassen. Viele Kenner seines Werkes sehen denn auch einen roten Faden der Strafproblematisierung, der sich durch sein gesamtes Oeuvre zieht. Mal unter dem Gesichtspunkt von “Grenzen des Leids” (1982), dann unter dem einer scharfen Kritik des prison-industrial complex (“Kriminalitätskontrolle als Industrie”, 1995); und selbst die  five dangers ahead für restorative justice (2009) und sein letzter Aufsatz über die Figur der Justitia (“Lady Justice”, 2015) warnten vor den Kräften der Entfremdung, die das Verstehen und Heilen so schwer und das Strafen so leicht werden lassen.

Scherzhaft hatte er in den vergangen Jahren den Gedanken an die Gründung einer Rückschrittspartei ins Spiel gebracht; das passte zu der Kritik, der er sich seitens Trutz von Trothas und anderer ausgesetzt gesehen hatte, dass seine Vorstellungen von alternativer Konfliktregelung mit den Erfordernissen einer modernen Gesellschaft unvereinbar seien – und dass sie selbst dann, wenn sie machbar wären, nicht zu wünschen seien. Er hielt tatsächlich viel vom Dorf- und Gemeinschaftsleben, beklagte die Aushöhlung der Infrastruktur und den Verlust sozialen Lebens auf dem Lande und verbrachte ja auch immer wieder längere Zeit in Vidarasen, einer therapeutischen Gemeinschaft auf der Grundlage einer sanften und menschenfreundlichen Weltanschauung.

Der nötigende Zwang politischer Korrektheit konnte ihn nicht unterkriegen: sanft, aber bestimmt wies er jede Einmischung der Polizei zurück, als er als Institutsdirektor einmal mit einem größeren Betrugsfall zu tun hatte – das machte Schlagzeilen und frustrierte die Strafverfolgungsbehörden; sanft, aber bestimmt vertrat er seine nicht immer hinreichend “linken” Ideen auch noch vor kurzer Zeit bei der Osloer Jubiläumstagung der European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control.

Als der 87-jährige Nils am Dienstag dieser Woche in den Morgenstunden in Oslo wie immer auf seinem Fahrrad unterwegs war, führte ein Unfall mit einer Straßenbahn zu schweren Kopfverletzungen, denen er tags darauf erlag


Sebastian Scheerer


In Memoriam: William Chambliss

William (Bill) Chambliss, Professor of Sociology at George Washington University, passed away peacefully on Friday February 22, 2014 with his beloved wife Pernille by his side. Chambliss wrote and/or edited over 25 books and numerous articles for scholarly journals in sociology, criminology and law. His work integrating the study of crime with the creation and implementation of criminal law has been a central theme in his writings and research. Chambliss was a path breaker for modern criminological conflict theory, he has become a standard criminology textbook topic. His best known work not only included his treatments of the origins of criminal law in capitalist societies, but also highly influential work on how class inequality affected crime rates (i.e., SAINTS AND ROUGHNECKS), political corruption (i.e., ON THE TAKE), and criminal fencing (i.e., THE BOXMAN), while following his long time passions for studying and writing about organized crime and piracy, criminal conspiracies, and state criminal behaviour. His recent research covered a range of lifetime interests in international drug control policy, class, race, gender and criminal justice and the history of piracy on the high seas.

In addition to being a former president of ASC, he was also president of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. Bill touched the lives of many in the Division on Critical Criminology very deeply. Although there will be a private memorial, other organisations may make plans to honour Bill and his legacy.

 Donna and Jeff

 An obituary by Greg Squires can be read here.


In Memoriam: Stuart Hall

Stuart Hall died on 10th February 2014, aged 82.

His work was obviously of enormous influence for members of the European Group, especially his co-edited Policing the Crisis which continues to frame the debate about the politics of crime control amongst critical criminologists today. He never gave up fighting for social justice and most recently published the Kilburn Manifesto with Doreen Massey and Michael Rustin, exploring alternatives to neoliberalism (http://www.lwbooks.co.uk/journals/soundings/manifesto.html). Lawrence and Wishart have made a webpage so that others can share with them in remembering Stuart and all the different things he meant to us. Collected here are tributes, obituaries, Stuart’s own writing, and interviews with him. Please visit the webpage here.

The Guardian obituary is available here:


Comments from European Group members

Stuart Hall's sense of place and culture, of contemporary history and politics, set him above all his contemporaries. Every time he lectured we were genuinely enthralled, on the very edge of our seats: every time we digested what he had to say, our own understanding of modern Britain grew. His legacy is not so much a body of knowledge, but more a way of thinking.  No one painted on such an expansive canvas with such assurance and intellectual panache.

Mick Ryan

Very sad to hear...the combined loss of Stan, Barbara, Keith and Stuart will be keenly felt. It is up to us I guess to continue their work in our own practice... We have lost the cornerstones of an amazing insight into humanity...even more reason to work hard...x

Kaaren Malcolm

 My deepest condolences, I am terribly sorry to hear this. Give my greetings too everybody.

Thomas Mathiesen

 I can’t write a long thing about Stuart Hall's enormous importance to me and to so many people worldwide. I’m just so sad to get your message. Now again we have lost one of our big ones.

Love from Ida Koch

An article by Ian Cummins on the film dedicated to Stuart Hall, The Stuart Hall Project, is available to read in our March 2014 newsletter.


In Memoriam: Keith Soothill

Professor Keith Soothill, Emeritus Professor of Social Research at Lancaster University, died on Wednesday after a short illness. Keith had worked in criminology for over 40 years, writing over 250 research papers on topics such as sex offending, recidivism, media & crime and rehabilitation of offenders, and the author of numerous books such as The Prisoner’s Release, Sex Crime in the News, Criminal Conversations: an Anthology of the work of Tony Parker, Questioning Crime and Criminology and Understanding Criminal Careers.

Keith was well-known and greatly appreciated by many members of the Group – he will be missed. 


In Memoriam: Jock Young


It is with great regret that we announce the death of yet another intellectual giant. Jock Young sadly passed away on Saturday 16th November. He was well-known for having developed the much-used concept of 'moral panic' along with Stanley Cohen back in the 1960s and for his important contribution to critical criminology. His best-known books were The Criminological Imagination  (2011) The Exclusive Society (1999), The Vertigo of Late Modernity (2007) and The New Criminology (with Taylor and Walton, 1973). He was also loved for his warmth, good humour and generosity of spirit. Jock attended a number of European Group conferences and was due to give a lecture at our 40th anniversary conference in Oslo from which he unfortunately had to withdraw due to ill health. He has been an important influence on many members of the European Group and will continue to be so for many years to come. He will be sadly missed.

Recollections from Phil Scraton:

I've recounted the occasion before ... I gave my first academic paper at a conference in 1976 to the original, politically-engaged National Deviancy Conference (NDC). Mike Fitzgerald, who I had never previously met, chaired the session and several of the parallel papers were cancelled. The session was packed and I was really nervous ... It went well despite an English guy from London quoting Weber in German. Afterwards another guy came over, incredibly gracious and supportive. Waistcoat, collarless shirt, long hair, cool ... he said if I ever needed to discuss my work I should make contact. He scribbled his name on the back of my notes. It was my first meeting with Jock ... I had referenced his work in the talk. Over thirty years on I was at the LSE talking on my Hillsborough research and there was Jock, front row, in tears as I talked through the families' fight for justice. Ever supportive, he had gone out of his way to make the session.

Soon after the NDC meeting I worked at the Open University with Mike and we'd often head down to Dalston to Jock's and he worked with us on the OU's first ever Criminology course. I still have a tape of Jock's lecture at the 1980 London Conference. We had many memorable moments and not all of them positive ... the fall out over what became a very parochial and often accusatory row regarding 'left idealism' and the cul-de-sac of 'realism' was a sad and difficult period occasionally played out in public (at a Stoke one-day conference in support of striking miners and their families where they hadn't a clue what the argument was about as they sought our support and at the 1984 EG Cardiff conference where 'left realism' was presented as the only show in town). Joe Sim, Paul Gordon and I tried to put some perspective on all this in the Introduction to Law, Order and the Authoritarian State.

As the years progressed, regardless of these earlier differences, Jock and I stayed in touch, meeting occasionally and always enjoying the moment. His work remained consistently innovative and always important, his friendship and comradeship never wavered, and he was always supportive to anyone I encouraged to make contact with him. Thinking back to those first meetings and, subsequently, to the canon of work he produced, I am absolutely certain that he contributed more than he would have known to me and to the generations of my students.

Even at the height of our disagreements I still enjoyed his mischief, his humour and his personal commitment to those who sought his advice. At the LSE talk, a while before the current Hillsborough revelations, he told me how much he valued the work, and he wrote in a similar vein after the Report was published. That was typical. For me and many others Jock's generosity of spirit, as well as his impressive intellect, defined him and he will be greatly missed.

A tribute can be accessed here (John Jay University, New York).

See Jock Young speaking on moral panics here.

Many articles by Jock Young can be read here.


In Memoriam: Barbara Hudson

 On 9th September 2013 Barbara Hudson died suddenly whilst on holiday in Greece. Barbara was not only an enormous influence and inspiration for members of the European Group over the last three decades but also a close personal friend to many. Her untimely death has come as a terrible shock. Barbara was a wonderful person who possessed not only a remarkable intellect but also a wonderful sense of compassion and understanding for others. She will be greatly missed by very many people.

 For a tribute article to Barbara written by David Scott, please consult our November 2013 newsletter.


In Memoriam: Geoffrey Pearson

Geoff Pearson, perhaps most famous as the author of Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears (1984), will be well-known to members of the European Group. Geoff sadly passed away last month. Below are some tributes to him that were sent in by Group members:

Dear colleagues, many of you will be unaware that Geoff Pearson, author of such seminal texts as Hooligan and the Deviant Imagination, died suddenly a week ago, his funeral is to be held on Tuesday 16th at Kensal Green cemetery London at 3. I am sure you would like to join me in expressing deepest condolences to his partner Marilyn. I was privileged to work with Geoff and others on a project on multi-agency work back in the 80s. Aside from being a brilliant writer and thinker, Geoff was possessed of a wicked sense of humour and, as anyone lucky enough to spend an hour (or so) at the bar with him would know, a treasure-house of stories. He was remarkably prescient, I remember him telling me and David Smith (the Lancaster one) after Thatcher got in, we should abandon job titles with 'social' in them and re-brand ourselves as criminologists - astute advice which may have saved us from the university knackers yard. I saw him about a year ago by chance in a restaurant in London and he was clearly enjoying retirement, although he had been lured back to do some work for the Welsh Assembly. We shall miss him -Harry Blagg

Geoff was a fine person and all that you write Harry is exactly my memory of him He was supportive, open, honest and kind. He was always fun to be with yet ready for an engaging conversation at any moment. I first met him at a National Deviancy Conference where I was giving my first ever paper which combined some hilarious research moments with examples of the vicious policing of Irish Travellers by police and bailiffs. The room was packed as two other parallel sessions had been cancelled. So many well-known people were in the session, chaired by Mike Fitzgereald, and I was dead nervous. At the end a smart arse guy from London commented that he thought my paper was 'slightly histrionic' and contested a quote I'd used from Weber ... then proceeded to ask me a question in German. I looked at him and said, 'Look mate, I'm from Liverpool and I've only just cracked your form of English, not gorra chance with German'. At the end of the session this other guy came up and said 'Really enjoyed that talk, keep up the great work and ignore fuckwits like him. If you ever need anything here's my number'. It was Geoff, and I've never forgotten the moment. I'm sure many others have similar stories. His work has stood the test of time and is as relevant now as it was when first published. -Phil Scraton

Geoff Pearson and his work was a huge influence on those of us , back in the 1970s, who were witnessing and viewing football hooliganism at their respective grounds. Over the weekend, we have seen a return of those forms of violence. I was at Manchester Victoria Station on Saturday evening, as Rotherham supporters ran amok... Is it temporary or will it be the return of football violence from a post-industrial, alienated, macho youth culture? Geoff Pearson is still our guide. Ste Higginson

 I only saw Geoff Pearson a couple of times, but I always thought he was a really interesting and valuable academic. He is a sad loss. Perhaps you could just add my condolences to everyone else's. -Mark Cowling

 I was so sorry to hear about Geoff Pearson’s death, I had worked with him some years ago and had the highest admiration for his work and his passion for social justice.  Please do pass on my condolences to his partner. -Frances Crook

 I knew Geoff mainly through the British Journal of Criminology, of which he was editor when I first joined the editorial advisory board. The Deviant Imagination and Hooligan are indeed fantastic books, groundbreaking at the time they appeared, and even more necessary now that so much criminology/criminal justice is taught on free-standing programmes no longer anchored in sociology.   As well as always being impressed by his writings, I remember him from  singalong-round-the-piano sessions at ASC conferences.   Lively and penetrating thinker, talked good sense in meetings, and always good company, yet another outstanding sociologist/criminologist who will be much missed. -Barbara Hudson

 Thanks for this sad information. It seems to be bad time for good people. I’m sad to know this. Love from Ida -Ida Koch

Thank you for the e-mail, please give my condolences to his family, and tell them to be strong, and think of all the great times they had together. -Sheila McGowan

In Memoriam: Stan Cohen 1942-2013

 Stanley Cohen, who was instrumental in founding the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control in 1973, sadly passed away on Monday 7th January 2013 following a long illness. He will be greatly missed by his friends and colleagues in the European Group and is a huge loss to the fields of sociology and critical criminology. He was particularly well-known for his seminal texts, Folk Devils and Moral Panics (1972), Visions of Social Control (1985) and, more recently, States of Denial: Knowing about Atrocities and Suffering (2001). As an inspiration to scholars throughout the globe, his intellectual legacy will continue long after his death.

Some personal reflections on Stan from European Group members:

 I am so very sad to hear this news. I only knew Stan for a few years but I will never forget his kind and supportive words when I became coordinator of the European Group. His advice was invaluable. I will also never forget when he came to Preston in 2009 - Greenbank lecture theatre has been 'the Stan Cohen lecture theatre' in my mind ever since. I had known he was very poorly for some time but I hoped that somehow he would pull through. His work has been, and continues to be, a total inspiration and 'States of Denial' is perhaps the most important and influential book I have ever read. His work and spirit will live on and continue to inspire future generations. It must.

-David Scott

 He did intervene, relishing the opportunity of speaking the truth to power. A fine epitaph. I think.

-Mick Ryan

This comes as a very sad surprise to me. Stan was a wonderful person and a great intellectual. Warm-hearted may be THE adjective. And critical of mainstream perceptions. It makes me very very sad. Vale, et suii persuade carissimum esse mihi.

-Sebastian Scheerer

 This is a tragic big loss that hits us in the European Group and far beyond.

A lovely person and a great and distinguished thinker. The last times I met Stan he was in much pain and had great difficulties speaking, however, he always overcame these with incredible dignity and will-power.

 Our conference in Oslo should be dedicated to his memory and powerful life-work.

-Andrea Beckmann

 I’m very sad to receive this message. I have not seen Stan for years, but got real nice greetings from him through common friends. Sad, sad.

-Ida Koch

 Such sad news which came as no surprise to many who watched Stan's painful decline over the years.

My enduring memory of this great academic was my first meeting with him. I was a PhD student of David Downes who, in his typically generous spirit, had invited me to the family home for dinner. As we were eating, David suddenly remembered that I hadn't been introduced to some of the guests. He got to the person sitting next to me and said, 'And this is Stan Cohen'. I recall thinking, oh god, what sensible things can I say about Visions of Social Control, Folk Devils etc.. Of course, nothing 'sensible' was needed to be said because Stan picked up on my nervousness and kept asking about my own research, putting me at ease through his insightful questions and suggestions.

Years later, when I returned to the LSE to teach, I had to go to his room to discuss some supervision arrangements. I hadn't seen him for six or so years and was taken aback by his physical decline. Stan clearly read my facial expression and gently expressed his resignation to the medicalised world he now inhabited, then moved on to the business at hand. And despite all his own suffering he kept writing and lecturing whenever he could to raise awareness of the suffering, and its denial, of others.

It's not just a powerful academic legacy he leaves, but as so many others have noted, a personal one too.

-Paddy Rawlinson

 I share the deep grief and sorrow about the passing of our friend and colleague Stanley Cohen - as a sympathetic and supportive person and as the most reflective and thoughtful critical criminologist I have ever met. He was a leading figure  of the legendary National Deviance Conference (NDC) and edited the first of two collections of papers that were given on more than ten symposia at York University, beginning in 1968 (Images of Deviance, 1971). I very well remember Stanley's angry reaction on the IAC-Congress 1988 in Hamburg when his work and position was attacked by a Dutch colleague who blamed critical criminology for its lack of appreciation of the noticeable decrease of imprisonment in modern societies. Stan Cohen's death will leave a gap in our discipline which cannot be filled, it seems to me, in the next future.

 I am so sorry and sad,

 -Fritz Sack

 I've never met Stan Cohen and didn't know him personally. His influence on me (and I'm sure many others) however was defining as my interests and intellectual development - and subsequent academic career - resulted directly from reading 'Visions of Social Control', which is the best, unsurpassed and most inspired and inspiring criminological text ever written.

 -Colin Webster

 u nom du centre de recherches criminologiques de l’ULB je voulais te communiquer notre profonde tristesse à tout(es)s ici. (On behalf of the Centre for Criminology at the Free University of Brussels, I wanted to convey our deepest sadness).

-Carla Nagels

 I share the grief of the Group and indeed of anyone who had the pleasure and privilege of spending time with Stan. Some time back Keith Hayward asked me to write some lines on Stan's life and contribution.  It was one of the most difficult writing assignments of my career; not because I was lost for words but rather it seemed impossible to encapsulate the impact of the man on my life and on the world at large, in letters on a page.

 For me the memory I will most cherish about Stan is his generous spirit and his capacity to turn around my thinking in the most profound but effortless fashion.

-Mark Findlay

 I do recall Stan’s visit to Preston in 2009 and the passion in his voice as he delivered his lecture, in spite of failing health. The turnout at the time reflected the esteem in which he is held; and as you have mentioned his work will continue to inspire future generations.

-Tunde (Alfred Zack-Williams)

 Stan had a soft kindness as a human being and a razor's edge as a scholar.

-John Braithwaite

 Stan was a remarkable person ... his brilliant, critical scholarship opened minds. It came without a hint of arrogance but with selfless warmth, encouragement, comradeship, wit, integrity ... on numerous occasions when it mattered he was there for me, and I know for many others. A while ago I was asked to write about his work. I withdrew the piece because I refused to edit the 'personal commentary'. This is a brief extract ...

“In 1973 I was working with Irish Travellers in Liverpool. In quick succession I read Stan Cohen’s now legendary Folk Devils and Moral Panics and Psychological Survival, his book with Laurie Taylor on long-term imprisonment. These were consciousness-raising texts that helped shape alternative, critical discourses on the demonisation of young people and, what Jimmy Boyle later named, the ‘pain of confinement’. It is not without irony that significant in Stan’s legacy now is the familiar use of the terms ‘folk devils’ and ‘moral panics’ in media headlines, editorials and broadcasts.

Within a decade I was sitting opposite Stan, conducting the last ever studio interview at BBC’s Alexandra Palace. It was a warm Friday afternoon. I was working on the Open University’s new Social Sciences’ Foundation course and the film crew and sound engineers wore T-shirts commemorating the closing of the studios where British television broadcasting began.

A young lecturer, in awe, my nervousness was soon alleviated by Stan’s humility, generosity and warmth. Throughout the interview I was struck by his capacity to deliver the strongest analytical message with lightness of touch; words easy on the ear, language accessible. Even in brief responses to questions his story-telling was evident.

If great teachers have one attribute above all it is their capacity to inspire their students to want to know more. As we explored the trinity of the ‘personal’, the ‘social’ and the ‘structural’, I was conscious that we were over time yet as the session closed I wanted to hear more. At that moment I knew that over the forthcoming years many thousands of OU students watching and listening would feel the same. It was fitting that a critical voice, particularly one so astute and uncompromising in his analysis of the media, should have the last word at Ally Pally ...”

-Phil Scraton

 Stan Cohen had been for years a great friend and teacher. He had visited Poland several times, and I guess he liked the place and was so much liked and respected here. I can hear his voice and almost see him talking. The day he died was a day when we discuss his Visions of Social Control. The work is not only valid but all the time equally important for the present criminal policy, so in a way, he is here and will stay.

-Monika Platek

 This is a profoundly sad announcement. However, one nice element of the reaction to Stan’s death has been to see and hear from so many colleagues, former students and friends about how he touched their lives. I didn’t know him as well as many, but for what it’s worth, this is how he touched mine.

I first read Folk Devils and Moral Panics as a very disgruntled law undergraduate suddenly enlivened by something called criminology. I was inspired. In the days before amazon, I read everything of his I could get – harassing the university library staff for inter-library loans. I realised the news was manufactured, I began having visions of social control and despite having only recently become a convert, I then found I was against criminology. I heard that he was also a bit of an activist. Stan became my hero.

My first job was in an NGO and with my colleague Brian Gormally I authored a report examining prisoner release as part of conflict transformation in a range of places including Israel\Palestine. A while later I received a hand-written note from Stan telling me he liked the report and was using it for teaching. I remember jumping around the office showing the note to people who didn’t know who he was. I was as happy as a pup with two tails.

Later I became an academic and Stan agreed to be one of the externals on my PhD. They say you shouldn’t meet your heroes, but mine lived up to expectations. He was lovely, warm, funny, encouraging and of course, very insightful. We kept in touch, he read my stuff when asked, wrote references and basically was the kind of mentor that all of us would wish to be.

I am not sure if my critical faculties were as sharp as they should have been in teaching his stuff. A few years back as I waxed lyrical (again) about Stan in general and the merits of States of Denial in particular some wags in a transitional justice class stood up in unison and bowed saying ‘Stan Cohen, we are not worthy’. I was too embarrassed to tell him that story, I am sure he wouldn’t have approved.

Probably like a lot of academics I have at times had to defend (particularly to human activist friends and colleagues) the practical utility of what we do. Maybe Belfast in particular can be very unforgiving of academic pretensions. In a tight corner, I would always turn to Stan Cohen. Deploying Stan was always the clincher in making an argument as to how a smart, properly theorised, political and engaged academic could tilt the axis a bit. I always knew I had a foothold, when the retort was ‘ok, fair enough, but apart from Cohen, which of you are actually relevant or useful...’.

Of course lots of academics do good stuff that is theoretical, political, engaged and relevant in both criminology and human rights. But to paraphrase Carly Simon, nobody did it better than Stan Cohen.

Suaimhneas síoraí go raibh aige

-Kieran McEvoy

 Living as I do in the U.S., I had not had a chance to meet Stan until many years after I had read and been shaped by his work on moral panic. Like most people, I suspect, I often develop mental images of people whose work I've read, but whom I have never met. Meeting Stan certainly erased the image of him I had created. Instead of the hard-charging firebrand I had imagined, I met a kind, gentle man with a powerful intellect who seemed far more interested in talking about me than him. As I came to know, it was this kindness and this interest in others that made Stan the mensch he was - and will continue to be in our thoughts and our spirits. The best honor we can pay his memory is to carry on the struggle for justice to which he was so committed.

-Ray Michalowski


I’m in England for almost three weeks. Sandwiched between my brother’s 60th birthday party and David (Edgar’s) 60th birthday party, I get to play in London and visit old friends, as well as friends getting older. I was looking forward to reconnecting with Stan Cohen. We were both part of the 60’s radical criminology movement, though from different perspectives and sites. Political sectarianism kept us – well, me – in different revolutionary camps. We’re not personally close, but with the collapse of the New Left in all its permutations, we are now on the same side, even on the Israeli Question, which usually divides Jews in the Diaspora. I’ve always appreciated his intellectual work and his activism, the two intimately connected. We are about the same age; and we’ve both moved about a lot during our careers.

When I was an undergraduate at Oxford in 1960, he was studying at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. While he was in transit from South Africa to England in 1963, I was leaving my homeland for grad school in Berkeley. For a while he was teaching in southern California in radical Santa Barbara; my activism cost me my job at Berkeley and, luckily, landed me a job until retirement at a local state college. Stan was an important figure in post-60s radical sociology, best known for helping us to understand how “moral panics” fuel law and order campaigns against “muggers” and “wayward teens.”

He’s been a committed public intellectual all his life, battling apartheid in South Africa and Thatcherism in England. He tried without success for several years to bore from within Israel (at Hebrew University, 1979-1995) against its militarist state. Since 1997, he’s lived in England, teaching and helping to nurse his wife through a chronic illness to her death from cancer. Now he’s the sicko. He’s been ill for several years with Parkinson’s and various other maladies. Not too long ago, he had spinal problems and was in hospital for a few weeks, immobilized, unable to move his legs. He was “reet poorly,” as they used to say in Manchester when I was a kid – a euphemism for “at death’s door.”

A couple of years ago when he took early retirement because of health reasons, his friends organized a conference and book of essays in his honor. When I told a friend that I was planning on seeing Stan, he said, “You better steel yourself. He’s not in good shape.” But when I called Stan at home, he said, “Let’s meet at my office at LSE.” He’s only been “back at work” a few weeks, coming in once a week to teach a class on “Crimes of the State” to visiting NYU undergraduates. (I doubt if they’ll like what he has to say about Israel.) It is something of a shock to see Stan. Sitting in a chair, he moves continuously like a marionette pulled by hidden strings until he finds a comfortable position. This only happens some days, though his body is usually in pain. Not surprisingly he has trouble, he says, with memory and finding the right words. Don’t we all?

But there’s nothing wrong with his mind or his politics. One of his most recent essays is a blistering critique of the fawning complicity and self-induced myopia of Israeli intellectuals (“The Virtual Reality of Israeli Universities,” Independent Jewish Voices, January 2008).He is now writing a new introduction to the second edition of his book, States of Denial. And despite his physical limitations, he’s into teaching again, trying to jump-start overly compliant students. Stan takes me out to a local café for coffee and we slowly walk the bustling neighborhood. He’s hoping that exercise will ward off another surgery. Our conversation turns personal, to our families, and our losses.

Close to Covent Garden he takes me into his favorite men’s shop, J. Simons, where he buys stylish American jeans and a shirt, and reminisces about working as a teenager in his immigrant father’s clothing store in Johannesburg. He encourages me to buy a vintage 50s jacket that I spot but, for now, resist. Life is still up for grabs. Stan also tells me about his partner, who is “a Ph. D. student, Swedish, thirty years younger, beautiful.” Some people object to the liaison, he tells me. To hell with them, I reply, and he laughs. Another reason they get on so well is that she also has a chronic illness. Which reminds him to tell me the first of several jokes. He’s a lovely storyteller, skilled at peppering his conversation with parables.

“Talking about Jessica [his girlfriend] reminds me of a joke,” he says. “A man walks into a church, goes into the confessional. The priest asks him why he’s here. ‘I’m an old man and I have great sex every day with my young girlfriend,’ he says. ‘What’s the problem,’ asks the priest, ‘Are you a member of this parish?’ ‘No,’ says the old guy. ‘I’m not even a Catholic, I’m a Jew and I don’t even believe in God.’ So,’ says the priest, ‘Why did you come here to tell me this.’ ‘Because,’ says the man, ‘I’m telling everybody.’”

Before I leave, I ask him to sign a copy of the book that has just come out in his living honor, both of us chuckling at the irony. And with that, we say our surprisingly intimate goodbyes.

Tony Platt, February 17, 2008, London. This piece first appeared on Tony Platt's blog (http://GoodToGo.typepad.com) on March 4, 2008.

 My partner Anna and I were at the European Group conference in Prague in 1993, one of the first occasions when Stan was sounding out elements of what later became his book, States of Denial. In his paper he intrigued us all with what he said were the three stages states go through in response to allegations that they have tortured people. Stage 1 is to deny the crime: it didn't happen. Stage 2 is to deny the extent of culpability: it was the fault of one or a few bad apples. Stage 3 is to deny the victim: the person tortured was evil and deserved it anyway.

A group of Norwegians had driven to the conference in a beat up, pink school bus with all the seats removed and replaced with mattresses. Anna and I decided to go with the Norwegians in the bus that afternoon to visit Karlstein Castle. But for reasons that we never figured out, the river and the one-way system completely defeated us. We could see on the map the road we wanted to get to to leave Prague, and at one point we even managed to spot the road on the other side of the river. But after probably an hour of driving around we were still stuck in the centre, and running low on fuel. So, the next task was to find a petrol station and fill up. The driver seemed to be as revived as the bus and set out with gusto for Karlstein. At this point, Anna, ever the tour guide, decided to check the guidebook and announced that, even if we could find the road this time, the place would be closed by the time we got there. 

Dejected, we headed back to the university. But then we had an idea which lifted our spirits. How could we explain our failure to the rest of the European Group? Easy. Step 1: no, we were just driving around; we had no intention of going to Karlstein. Step 2: we did try to get to Karlstein, but the driver was crap. Step 3: we didn't mind not getting there, because Karlstein is totally overrated anyway.

I don't know if any of us ever told Stan how he had inspired us that afternoon!

-Bill Rolston

 About five years ago, Moira Peelo and I conducted a modest study to consider how knowledge has been constructed in British criminology since the 1960s. The outcome was clear – “there is one outstanding hero, one impressive heroine, one consistent performer, three major books by other authors and one major ongoing study” (p.481).  The outstanding hero was, of course, Stan Cohen.

-Keith Soothill

 So sad. A great loss.

-George S. Rigakos

 Stan Cohen was an inspiring teacher and a friend for me too. I am proud to have had this opportunity and know his ideas are going on.

-Teresa Lapis

 Dear Friends,

I want to remind you that when someone like Stanley Cohen, or Louk Hulsman, or Sandro Baratta, and others disappears, it means to elaborate the meaning and feeling of our lives, the deep perception of our youthfulness, of our efforts to change things, of improving knowledge and consciousness about the most dramatic aspects of our society. So let's stay in this dimension, let's share the deep sense of that, and join each other in this long, odd way.  A hug.

-Beppe Mosconi

 Visions of Social Control is one of the two most important books on Social Policy, ever written. Ever written! The other, is Foucault's Discipline & Punish. Oh Stanley, so sad to see him go. The light of his humanity is so rare, so beautiful, so precious.

-Lynne Wrennall

 I would like to add to the many personal tributes my own appreciation. Stan was a founding father of critical criminology and a key participant in the creation of the European critical legal studies movement. His humanity, radicalness and perseverance in the face of extreme adversity offer a great example of the public intellectual in difficult times.

 We will remember him,

 -Costas Douzinas

 I, too, am saddened by news of Stan's death.  He was my PhD supervisor, mentor, and a supportive friend at many important points in my life.   He sent a lovely message to my retirement lunch, and I was greatly honoured to be one of the speakers at his retirement seminar.   It was a great pleasure the summer after the Preston conference to be involved with him in a research project bringing together issues and developments in social control and human rights.

I have lots of lovely memories of Stan, who not only inspired me with his work but, among many other things, introduced me to the music of Doctor John.   His rigorous intellect combined with his humane, warm and generous personality made him one of the most remarkable people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  We will all miss him.

-Barbara Hudson

 It was very, very sad to hear about Stan's passing away. He was a great person, and a great scholar. I met Stan for the first time in 1973, forty years ago, when we were both in Italy, Florence to found what later became known as the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control. The Group has met every year since then, altogether forty times at various European sites. I remember the starting point well, because it coincided to the day with the murder of the Latin American Socialist leader and President of Chile, Salvador Allende, on 11 September 1973. It took, at that time, a few hours for organizers in Florence to muster 40 000 people, largely communists, loudly demonstrating in the streets of the city against the coup d'état in Chile. Symbolically, this first conference of the European Group was called "Social Control in Europe: Scope and Prospects for a Radical Criminology". We could do nothing then about the coup d'état, but the Italian protests against it were of a great symbolic context and significance for us.

As the years passed by, Stan participated in several other important political and social struggles. At the same time, he pursued his scholarly work. A string of crucially important books came from his hand; to me the most memorable perhaps being the now famous "Folk Devils and Moral Panics", which came early, in fact in 1973. But there were many others - it is not possible to mention them all in this short statement. Stan's way of fusing, throughout his life, deeply engaged political with highly original scholarly work constituted a masterpiece. At the same time he was a splendid friend, caring for all his comrades in Europe and elsewhere.

 We mourn Stan's untimely death. We miss him greatly.

-Thomas Mathiesen

 Stan Cohen died on Monday, January 7th. In accordance to Jewish traditions, the funeral took place already Thursday that week, – at Edgwarebury Cemetery, near London. Here there were warm words from oldest daughter, granddaughter and a brother, – and from friend and colleague Laurie Taylor. A farewell to the man, but not to his ideas.

Home from his funeral, I took out his books from the shelf just behind me. They left a big whole there, just as his death does to so many of his friends. I looked again into some of these books, particularly “Visions of Social control”. And once more I got an opportunity to reflect on Stan’s reflections. Reflections are just what make this book so important. It is not a simple book on social control. Its core is not descriptions, conclusions and advice for action. Its content is thoughts, critiques of these thoughts, and critique of the critique. It is a book about how to think about social life, and on the moral base for action.

But these are not reflections without a solid empirical base. He laid much of the foundation for “Visions” with the book on “Folk Devils and Moral Panics”, as well as the one with Laurie Taylor on “Psychological Survival”. These books, and of course later books as “States of Denial” and “Against Criminology”, they are treasures in the criminology of our time.

Let me add some observations on Stan’s importance, as seen from my Scandinavian corner:

I have kept a relatively close contact to British criminology throughout my whole life. From the old guard with Hermann Mannheim and Max Grünhut, and a bit later Leon Radzinowicz. And of course at that time Leslie Wilkins, always an outsider in his land. But then, slowly, a new and important figure emerged: Stan, in the beginning shy and complicated to understand, but after a while experienced as a warm, thoughtful but also admirable provocative person in the new generation of British criminologists. He was also soon to become one of the central participants when delegations from GB were invited to Scandinavian seminars. To me, he became a dear friend.

For a period, he and his family stayed in Israel. Also there he was, in quite an extraordinary way, able to stick to ideals of intellectual integrity. He, together with his wife Ruth, became important independent voices in Jerusalem, courageously fighting for the preservation of human rights in the middle of the fierce conflict.

He was a great gift to so many among us.

-Nils Christie

 We, members of CPEP/PSCS, a coalition of activist faculty and students from Carleton University and the University of Ottawa wish to offer our condolences on the passing of Stanley Cohen. As critical criminologists committed to the pursuit of social justice we have been much influenced and inspired by Stan Cohen’s eloquent, path-breaking and insightful work. We share Cohen’s dedication to what he several times described as efforts at appeasing ‘three voracious gods’: ‘first, an overriding obligation to honest intellectual enquiry itself  (however sceptical, provisional, irrelevant and unrealistic), second, a political commitment to social justice, but also (and potentially conflicting with both) the pressing and immediate demands for short term humanitarian help.’

While Stanley Cohen’s inspiring ideas and publications will be prominent in our critical pedagogy and activism for many years to come in the shorter term critical criminologists at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, and colleagues from across Canada and beyond, will be paying special tribute to Stan Cohen and his academic and activist legacy during a session at our third annual Critical Criminology conference co-hosted on May 3-4 2013 by the University of Ottawa and Carleton University: ‘Critical Perspectives: Criminology and Social Justice.’    

Maeve McMahon

* A fascinating interviewwith Stan Cohen, carried out by Maeve McMahon and Gail Kellough back in 1987, can be accessed here:

 Our September 2013 newsletter was dedicated to Stan Cohen.


In Memoriam: Mary McIntosh 1942-2013


Mary McIntosh, an influential radical sociologist and one of the organisers of the critical 1970s forum, the National Deviancy Conference, sadly passed away on Saturday January 5th 2013. Some of her best-known work was Deviance and Social Control (with Paul Rock, London, 1974), The Organisation of Crime (1975) and Sex Exposed: Sexuality and the Pornography Debate (1992).

 A tribute to Mary written by Ken Plummer can be accessed here.

 Below are some personal reflections on Mary from members of the European Group.

 "This is yet another blow!

 I never met Mary but her work and crucial insights into the socio-cultural construction of ‘homosexuality’ and respectively other ‘sexualities’ were made at an early time and formed an important and empowering foundation for many critical scholars and researchers in the realm of the sociology/criminology of ‘sexuality’ and ‘its’ ‘perversions’.

 What a loss and, together with the passing of Stan, this is really upsetting."

 Andrea Beckmann

 "Mary Macintosh wrote one of the best introductions to organised crime (The Organization of Crime. Macmillan 1975). The deaths of two such important people for criminology [Mary and Stan] is very sad indeed and they will be very much missed."

 Paula Wilcox

 "I was taught by Mary McIntosh whilst an undergraduate at Essex University in the 1980’s and she had a real influence on my life. She was an inspirational woman and through her passionate teaching and writing helped develop my political understanding of feminism and socialism which impacted on my personal and professional life and activist work around women’s rights, state violence and social justice. A wonderful woman with a wonderful legacy."

 Deborah Coles


 In Memoriam: Lidia Zubler

One of the oldest members of the European Group, Lidia Zubler, died tragically on 20th October, 2012. Lidia was truly dedicated to the Group, attending almost every conference over the past 40 years. She will be sadly missed. The Group would like to express its condolences to Lidia’s friends and family.

 Memories of Lidia: Andrea

 Lidia Zubler, who very sadly and tragically died as result of a fire in her house, will be dearly missed by many members of the European Group.

 She originally went to her first conference of the European Group in order to find support as her husband got into conflict with the criminal law and was arrested. Lidia knew that the group took a critical stance towards Criminal Justice systems and the institution of the prison. What she found was not only the support she sought but also a group that was and is open, inviting, warm and full of comradeship. And so, despite separating from her husband, Lidia continued to attend the many conferences that followed and various Steering Committee meetings as the representative of Switzerland.

 Lidia was a person with strong willpower and absolute integrity that lived according to her values. She lived a frugal life and had little income which she earned as a kitchen-helper. Despite this difficult financial context Lidia managed to get to the most difficult to reach locations in order to join our conferences. One time she even had to travel through the civil war that raged in Yugoslavia to get to our conference on the Greek island of Spetses.

 Lidia worked for many years in the self-governing collectively run, politically engaged and organically focused Café Zähringer in Zuerich. Later in her life she became a cook and her written work tackled the relationships between nutrition and globalization. Lidia was a truly independent and vibrant spirit, a very radical and dignified human being. She could laugh like a little girl, with a unique timbre that reflected her love of life. She had an incredible wealth of knowledge about plants, herbs and natural healing remedies. We shared a deep and existential commitment to areas of socio-cultural and political life constructed as ‘deviant’ and I will miss her very much.

 Memories of Lidia: Ann

 I can’t imagine a European Group Conference without Lidia. She has been present at every one I’ve attended, as she actually attended nearly every one there has ever been. As for many others, the EG conference was also Lidia’s annual holiday and she funded herself to come each year for over 40 years. When she met us at the beginning of each conference, her smile always showed how happy she was to be there.

  Lidia was gentle, quiet and thoughtful, very much her own person. She listened attentively to every speaker and enjoyed being in circles where interesting and informative conversations were taking place. Lidia was a modest person, but knew her own mind and would offer perceptive insights on a range of topics, when asked for her opinion.

 She travelled independently and always managed to find the best value accommodation in the most interesting parts of town. She also was, in her private life, a pioneer of recycling long before it became fashionable.

 At the EG conference this year in Nicosia, Lidia was in particularly good spirits. She joined in the conference sessions, the social events, the meal out and the excursion. Lidia’s presence at each conference was a reminder to us all of the important contribution of all who are interested in social justice (not just academics and activists) in the work of the European Group.