Louk Hulsman (1923-2009)
Louk Hulsman, the former the Director of the Rasphuys Institute, Dordrecht and Emeritus Professor in Penal Law and Criminology at the Erasmus University, Rotterdam, died in Dordrecht, Netherlands of a heart attack on 28th January 2009. He was 85 years old. Louk was one of the ‘founding fathers’ of penal abolitionism in Europe and one of the most active and influential penal critics for the last four decades. He was amongst other commitments a leading member of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control, Chair of The Coornhert League for the Reformation of the Criminal Law, and the Netherlands representative of ICOPA (International Conference on Penal Abolitionism).
Born in the Netherlands on March 8th 1923, Louk actively participated in the Dutch resistance against Nazi occupation during the Second World War. Interned in a Nazi concentration camp in 1944, Louk’s first engagement with the criminal justice system came in the 1950s whilst working as a civil servant in the Dutch defence and justice administrations. In 1964 he became the first professor of Criminal Law at Erasmus University, Rotterdam. Louk had a long history of critical engagement with the Dutch government, serving as a Councillor in the Dutch Ministry of Justice, Chair of the Dutch Probation Service, Chair of the Dutch Association for Penal Reform and was a member of the advisory boards of the Dutch Police Academy and Dutch Committee on Drug Policy. Importantly, he contributed to the development of European common study programs on drug policy and critical criminology, thus preparing the ground for younger generations of critical criminological scholarship within Europe. Louk also acted as the Netherland’s representative on the European Committee on Crime Problems of the Council of Europe in the 1980s.
Alongside his many policy interventions Louk was renowned teacher and attained international acclaim for his written work on penal abolitionism. His most influential and well known publications in Europe include the Report on Decriminalisation (Council of Europe, 1980) and Pienes perdues. Le systeme penal en question (with Jacqueline Bernat de Celis, 1982). He is perhaps most well known to English speaking audiences for his article “Critical criminology and the concept of crime” which was first published in 1986 and has been widely reproduced in a number of criminology and criminal justice readers. His enormous contribution to the field is widely acknowledged across the world and he is included in the recent text 50 Key Thinkers in Criminology (Routledge, 2009)
A selection of Louk Hulsman’s writings published in English
- HULSMAN, L. (1974), "The Penal System as a Social Problem", in Issues and Answers Minnesota: The Rural Crime and Justice Institute
- HULSMAN, L. (1978), "The Dutch Criminal Justice System from a Comparative Legal Perspective," pp 289-381 in D. Fokkema et al. (eds) (1978) Introduction to Dutch Law for Foreign Lawyers Deventer: Kluwer
- HULSMAN, L. (1980) Report on Decriminalisation, Strasbourg: Council of Europe HULSMAN, L. (1981), "Penal Reform in the Netherlands. Part 1 - Bringing the Criminal Justice System under Control ". Howard Journal of Penology and Crime Prevention, Volume 20, Number 3, pp. 150-159.
- HULSMAN L. (1982), "Penal Reform in the Netherlands. Part 2 - Criteria for Deciding on Alternatives to Imprisonment ". Howard Journal of Penology and Crime Prevention, Volume 21, Number 1, pp. 35-47.
- HULSMAN L. (1986), "Critical Criminology and the Concept of Crime". Contemporary Crisis, Volume 10, pp. 63-80
- HULSMAN L. (1989), "The Right of the Victim not to be subordinated to the Dynamics of Criminal Justice", in Separovic, Z. (ed), Victimology, International Action and Study of the Victims, Volume. 1, pp. 1, pp. 25-35.
- HULSMAN, L. (1991), "The Abolitionist Case: Alternative Crime Policies". Israel Law Review, Volume 25, Number 3-4, Summer-Autumn, pp 681-709.
A special volume of Cahiers de défense sociale (Bulletin of the International Society of Social Defence and Humane Criminal Policy) was published in 2003 celebrating the 80th Birthday of Louk Hulsman. Edited by Adolfo Ceretti, the journal contains 12 papers in honour of Louk by leading criminologists from across Europe and South America and explores many aspects of his work and activism. There is also a very interesting interview with Louk Hulsman by Juan Felix Marteau published in the April/June 1996 edition of the Brazilian Journal of Criminal Sciences.
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