Life after release: understanding effects of imprisonment on the further life-course


Two thirds of offenders in the Netherlands re-offend within six years after release from prison. Recidivism after imprisonment is recognized as a widespread and important social problem, and reducing re-offending is a top priority of national and international governments. However, the intended and unintended consequences of imprisonment are not well understood. First, the existing empirical research is restricted in its ability to provide credible estimates of the magnitude of imprisonment’s effects. Second, basic questions about direct and indirect effects of imprisonment on crime and informal social control factors (employment, marriage, and parenthood) remain unanswered. Third, studies addressing how different offender groups respond to imprisonment are scarce. Improved understanding of the effects of imprisonment is required for crime reduction and prevention.

The proposed research addresses these omissions and aims to significantly advance the criminological and theoretical understanding of punishment. I will employ a novel econometric approach to reliably assess the (in)direct effects of imprisonment on various life-course circumstances, such as family relations, employment, and re-offending. In addition, I provide new insight in the extent to which effects of imprisonment are different for various social groups, based on age, employment, and ethnicity. New prosecution data will be gathered, including information on sentencing and offending, and supplemented with pre-prison and post-prison data about life-course circumstances from other sources. These data and methods are necessary to provide a sound empirical base for this research. I will disseminate the findings among practitioners and policymakers through various workshops at criminal courts, the Ministry of Justice, the Public Prosecution Service, and the Dutch probation Service, to ensure that various stakeholders will benefit from the proposed research.

The findings of this project will constitute a significant step forward for life-course criminology and sociology, and will enable more efficient use of legal sanctions for offenders.


Publications for the general public


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. H.T. Wermink

Affiliated with

Universiteit Leiden, Faculteit der Rechtsgeleerdheid, Departement Strafrecht en Criminologie

Team members

Dr. H.T. Wermink


01/01/2018 to 31/12/2021