Vrije Universiteit Brussel

CRiS - Crime & Society







The  Research Group Crime and Society (CRiS) was founded in 2012 and presents its research activities under the common theme: 'STRAT - Crossing Borders: Crime, Culture and Control' and studies the developments in society focusing on our constructivist, critical, comparative and interdisciplinary approach to crime and crime control as social phenomena.

Developments in crime control in western societies over the last 30 years are characterized by a simultaneous emergence of both a preventive and a punitive turn. Within the preventive turn, the state increasingly decentralizes crime control and delegates its powers of control and punishment to local authorities and private actors. The punitive turn refers i.a. to the increased reliance by the state on deprivation of liberty for adult and juvenile offenders, immigrants and other vulnerable groups in society as well as new forms of control such as sex offender registration or enhanced technological surveillance in community sanctions and measures (i.e. electronic monitoring, CCTV,…). However, from an international perspective, emerging comparative research also illustrates important differences in these developments and forms of resistance by crime control actors or by populations in conflict with the law.

Over the past 25 years our research focussed on a critical analysis of these social phenomena of crime and deviance and of the formal and informal reactions to these phenomena. Research expertise developed more or less in three main research areas:

This research resulted in a strong interdisciplinary tradition of theoretical and empirical research into crime phenomena, societal reactions and criminal justice policies and practices.

The Research Group Crime and Society (CRiS) therefore participates in an IAP Interuniversity Attraction Pole (P7/22 Justice & Populations) in order to achieve a multidimensional research approach in the social sciences, notably history and criminology.

The following document provides more information about the Research Group Crime and Society's (CRiS) research focus and areas, with detailed descriptions of past and current research, and an overview of related publications and research colaboration:

CRiS Research Report (2009 - 2012)

CRiS Research Cloud

Crime and Society Research Areas

Penality and Society

The CRiS research area Penality and Society focusses on criminological, sociological and socio-legal research of the penal and para-penal institutions, their actors, cultures and social practices, in interaction with political and social developments in late-modernity.
The main research areas are: penal decision making (sentencing and sentence implementation), prisons, prison overcrowding, prisoner’s rights, prison staff, long term prisoners, elderly prisoners and situations of extreme dependency, illegals (in prison), pains of imprisonment, prison architecture, prison food, masculinities, restorative justice in prison, social reintegration, community sanctions and measures (work penalty, electronic monitoring, conditional release, probation), staff and organizational culture of the houses of justice. Most of these topics are studied form a national and international comparative perspective.

More information:

Research projects and related publications


Prof. dr. Snacken Sonja
Prof. dr. Beyens Kristel

Security, Prevention and Policing

The CRiS research area Security, Prevention & the Police focuses on the criminological study of social security. Questions and issues of security gain importance in societal discourses but are equally increasingly crystallized into practices penetrating the citizen’s daily life. These developments highlight a ‘thin blue line’ between security and insecurity, between order and disorder, and the way in which societies enable preventive and repressive measures to reach desired balances.
Therefore, the research group endeavored (pioneering) sociological studies of the police, with in particular the study of routine practices, citizen-police interactions and the occupational culture(s). Insights in the function of the police and the police organization, as the main governmental body to respond to criminal and/or disorderly behavior, contribute to a democratic and legitimate police force and to the debates concerning security and freedom in our society.  Consequently, research is also more and more focused on governmental views and responses regarding phenomenon of insecurity: notably prevention policies and federal and local government security policies, the privatisation of security issues, the creation of new security initiatives and alternative conflict settlements, etc.

More information:

Research projects and related publications


Prof. dr. Enhus Els
Prof. dr. De Kimpe Sofie
Prof. dr. Cools Marc

Youth Justice Studies

the CRiS research area Youth Justice Studies elaborates on contemporary social and scientific developments and debates, and is in particular concerned with the following four research lines:
A first research line concerns the historical perspective on youth, deviant behavior, crime and its treatments. This pioneering research has been performed by using rich archive files and other historical sources.
A second research line focuses on the youth protection system as a legal system and on the tensions and questions which are being developed in this particular field. Legal-criminological questions are being examined, such as process guarantees of prosecuted minors and the children-rights lega frameworks. Recent research in this context highlights and discusses the communication in juvenile courts.
A third research line focuses rather on questions which must be situated within the practice of the social response to young people and their alleged deviant, problematic or delinquent behavior. The research elaborates on alternative sanctions practices, or the placement of minors in community institutions.
A fourth research line which is being developed includes research topic that discusses the social phenomenon of young people and their (delinquent) behavior in the society. Our research here discusses for example evolutions in youth delinquent behavior or self-reported delinquent behavior. Also, the study of background characteristics and their interaction with paths of young people in youth protection systems, as well as the study into desistance and repetition of offenses.

More information:

Research projects and related publications


Prof. dr. Christiaens Jenneke
Prof. dr. Dumortier Els

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