Research unit III – Institutions of Social Control

Heads of the research unit:
Dr. Laura Klebe und Prof. Dr. Thomas Bliesener


The interdisciplinary research unit “Institutions of Social Control” primarily focuses on (criminal) enforcement, particularly in the context of penal and custodial measures. However, the unit also examines the work of the criminal justice system and other institutions of social control that respond to norm violations through formalized procedures (e.g., police, youth and family services, sports tribunals). The central focus of the research unit revolves around the conditions for general and specific preventive effects of formal sanctions. Specifically, our research aims to explore the extent to which the intended preventive effects can be achieved through sanctions, and how these effects may be shaped by the characteristics of the sanctions (e.g., different types of sanctions), the offenders (e.g., attribution of impulsivity, affect, competence), and the sanctioning institutions (e.g., perceived legitimacy or experience of procedural justice).




Research Focus

The research unit is structured into three main areas. The first research focus, Evaluation of Specific Forms of Sanctions, involves the analysis and assessment of formal responses to deviant behavior to evaluate their feasibility and effectiveness. In the second research focus, Individual Deterrence, Sanction Trajectories, and Sanction Management, the influence of offender characteristics on the deterrent effect of sanctions is examined, along with how previous sanction trajectories and their circumstances have affected the likelihood of sanctions. The third research focus, Experience of Sanctions in Criminal Proceedings and Custodial Settings, explores the experiences of individuals affected by sanctions in criminal proceedings and custody.

The approach is typically multimethodological, integrating a wide range of qualitative and quantitative research methods, from (expert) interviews to studies of unreported crime and analyses of court records, to the evaluation of official and registry data.


Evaluation of Specific Forms of Sanctions

The first research focus involves the systematic analysis and evaluation of specific sanction norms and forms that are applied within the system of social control. This includes, for example, assessing the preventive effectiveness of certain sanctions and comparing their advantages and disadvantages relative to other measures.

Individual Deterrence, Sanction Trajectories, and Sanction Management

The second research focus centers on examining the individual factors influencing the deterrent potential of sanctions. This includes analyzing the characteristics of offenders as well as various sanctioning strategies. Additionally, this research focus involves investigating sanction trajectories and the management of sanctions, including the development of strategies for the effective administration and implementation of sanctions within the system of social control. The aim is to gain a better understanding of which sanction measures are most effective in preventing future deviant behavior.

Experience of Sanctions in Criminal Proceedings and Custodial Settings

The third research focus centers on the experiences of sanctioned individuals during criminal proceedings and their incarceration. This includes analyzing the psychological, social, and emotional consequences of punitive measures for the sanctioned individuals, their coping strategies, as well as the effects on their attitudes and future (legal) behavior. The emphasis is also on examining the effectiveness and perceived fairness of the criminal justice system, as well as identifying opportunities to improve the sanctioning process and the rehabilitation of offenders. Of particular interest are also the correlates and conditions of changes in evaluations and attributions of experienced sanctions.


Current Research Projects

The three research foci represent interconnected and partially overlapping areas that serve as a common framework for the interdisciplinary research unit. Projects can be located either within one focus or at the intersections of several focal points.