Deterrence versus procedural justice. Successfully reducing reoffending.


An important aim of nations’ criminal justice systems is to reduce crime among those who already committed crimes (i.e. the aim of specific crime prevention). Two main factors are generally supposed to play an important role in reducing reoffending: Offenders are assumed to recidivate less if they (a) perceive sentences as (more) severe, and (b) feel treated (more) fair and respectful by legal actors. These assumptions are rooted in the well-known deterrence theory and procedural justice theory. Surprisingly, the validity of both assumptions have never been tested adequately, particularly not in serious offending populations. Whereas offenders may respond differently to punishments and may have different attitudes towards criminal justice actors than non-offenders. Therefore, the aim of the proposed study is to simultaneously test and contrast hypotheses derived from the deterrence and procedural justice theories among a prison population. The study uses a mixed-methods approach, combining a longitudinal quantitative study and a longitudinal qualitative study that follow defendants shortly after their arrest, during detention, and post-release. Additionally, an observational study is done during meetings between defendants and the various legal actors they encounter. As such, the proposed study will be the first study that simultaneously tests both theories, does this in a prison population, includes multiple legal actors, and uses a prospective design. The study will yield new insights of high importance for the fields of penology, criminology, and criminal law, and will inform policy makers, professionals, and law enforcement agencies on effective policies to reduce reoffending after release from prison.





Dr. A.J.E. Dirkzwager

Verbonden aan

NWO-institutenorganisatie, NSCR - Nederlands Studiecentrum Criminaliteit en Rechtshandhaving


01/01/2020 tot 01/11/2023