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The impact of punitive penal policy on sentencing and its budgetary impact

The “punitive turn” of criminal policy has been for long the major explanation in criminology for the co-existence of falling crime rates and growing prison population. The gap between these two is also visible in Hungary. The literature, though, usually remains confined to the analysis a few “iconic” legal institutions such as three-strike rules.

This research is based on the hypothesis that the punitive turn is embodied in a wide range of incremental changes in technical sentencing rules and sentencing ranges of individual crimes, and the effects of these, taken together, play a much greater role in the growing prison population than the legal institutions elevated to be symbols of punitivity. This is especially so in the case of Hungary, where, starting in 2010, several changes where introduced with the intent to increase the number of sentences carrying imprisonment, and generally extend prison terms for most crimes and most perpetrators

The aim of the project was to help our research partner map how these changes impacted sentencing practice, and thus imprisonment rates and the cost of imprisonment. Based on the sentencing database of the Prison Service (PS) the research measured the effect of the new, stricter sentencing rules on imprisonment rates and the lengths of custodial sentences.

Project details

The project was funded under the National Scientific Research Programme (OTKA) and carried out in cooperation with the Institute for Legal Studies at the Centre for Social Sciences (Hungarian Academy of Sciences)

ClientNational Research, Development and Innovation Office
Project leader Balázs Váradi
Duration16/11/2017 - 31/08/2020