Cristin-prosjekt-ID: 2526420
Sist endret: 29. desember 2021, 20:51

Cristin-prosjekt-ID: 2526420
Sist endret: 29. desember 2021, 20:51

Life Imprisonment Worldwide Revisted


Catherine Amelia Appleton
ved St. Olavs Hospital HF

prosjekteier / koordinerende forskningsansvarlig enhet

  • St. Olavs Hospital HF



Psykologi • Kriminologi • Rettsvitenskap • Sosiologi


Fengsel • Human Rights • Penalty analysis


  • Mental helse
  • Andre


  • 1 Underbyggende Forskning



  • Anvendt forskning


Catherine Amelia Appleton


Start: 1. september 2020 Slutt: 31. desember 2022

Beskrivelse Beskrivelse


Life Imprisonment Worldwide Revisted

Vitenskapelig sammendrag

This research project, supported by St Olavs University Hospital in Trondheim and the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham, brings together a small interdisciplinary team to examine life imprisonment on a global scale.

Dr Catherine Appleton at the Centre for Research and Education in Security, Prisons and Forensic Psychiatry, St Olavs University Hospital and the Department of Mental Health, NTNU, and Emeritus Professor Dirk van Zyl Smit, at the School of Law, University of Nottingham, are revising and updating their global study on life imprisonment, first published by Harvard University Press in 2019. They are working together with a global community of scholars and practitioners in law, criminal justice and penology to collate information on life imprisonment around the world.  

Since 2014, the researchers have studied the imposition and implementation of life imprisonment around the world in order to be able to understand the different types of life sentences, how many persons are sentenced to life imprisonment, which crimes attract life sentences, how such sentences are implemented, and the conditions under which prisoners serve them. They have assessed critically the practice of life imprisonment in the light of human rights principles and standards developed by international human rights bodies and national courts. The project has resulted in two major books on life imprisonment:

1. Life Imprisonment and Human Rights, published by Bloomsbury in 2016. 

2. Life Imprisonment: A Global Human Rights Analysis published by HUP in 2019 and awarded the 2020 Outstanding Book Award 2020 of the Division of International Criminology of the American Society of Criminology and the 2020 Book Award of the European Society of Criminology

The substantive research conducted by the Life Imprisonment Worldwide Project is complemented by a campaign to increase its impact. With support from Penal Reform International, key findings of the research were published in 2018 in a joint policy briefing on Life Imprisonment, available in Arabic, English, French, Japanese and Russian. The policy briefing examines the use of life imprisonment against the background of Goal 16 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Nelson Mandela Rules on the Standard Minimum Treatment of Prisoners and other international standards. The briefing concludes that urgent changes are required to the way life imprisonment is imposed and implemented to make it human rights compliant. 

The current project started in September 2020. It is the result of a global academic and practitioner network working on life imprisonment across world regions, sub-continents and jurisdictions.


The overarching aim of the project Life Imprisonment Worldwide Revisited is to update the original global study and translate its findings into publications and interventions that will reduce the use of life sentences and improve their implementation worldwide. Specifically, the study has three key objectives:

  1. To revise, update and develop survey data from the original research study, published in 2019, to capture significant changes in the field of life imprisonment worldwide.
  2. To provide new, timely and accessible knowledge about the penalty of life imprisonment across different jurisdictions.
  3. To work together with the NGO Penal Reform International and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to change law, policy and practice on life imprisonment at the international level.


To achieve the first objective, the original data collection instrument (available in all six United Nations languages) will be revised and redistributed to established contacts in the field of life imprisonment across 216 countries and territories. The original research project collated data on life-sentenced prison populations for 1 September 2014. The established database, which holds information on – for example – maximum penalties, offences for which life imprisonment can be imposed, numbers of persons sentenced to life imprisonment, the life sentence prison population and type of regime for life sentence prisoners, will be populated with new information held by survey participants on 1 January 2020, or the nearest possible date to that. The revised survey will also capture new information on, for example, informal life sentences or other indefinite terms of imprisonment. In addition, various forms of literature on life imprisonment will be collated across jurisdictions, including legislation, academic articles, news reports as well as primary and secondary research undertaken by NGOs and international bodies. 

The second objective will be achieved by establishing a project website, in partnership with the Human Rights Law Centre at the School of Law, University of Nottingham, to publicise new findings and analyses from the dataset and key legal and policy developments in the field of life imprisonment, as well as to instigate debate and discussion on the wider issues of life imprisonment. The research team will aim to develop close links and encourage information sharing with scholars in countries where information on life imprisonment is difficult to obtain (for example, China and other parts of Asia where data on life imprisonment remains a state secret). Conference events and publications on the topic will be promoted and encouraged. 

The third objective will be met by working with the NGO Penal Reform International and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to develop a ‘Handbook on Life Imprisonment’ as part of UNODC’s widely circulated series ‘on the implementation of the UN crime prevention and criminal justice standards and norms’. 



Aktiv cristin-person

Catherine Amelia Appleton

  • Tilknyttet:
    ved St. Olavs Hospital HF

Dirk van Zyl Smit

  • Tilknyttet:
    ved University of Nottingham
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Resultater Resultater

Life Imprisonment and Human Rights.

Van Zyl Smit, Dirk; Appleton, Catherine Amelia. 2016, Hart Publishing Ltd. STOLAV, NTNUVitenskapelig antologi/Konferanseserie

Life Imprisonment: A Global Human Rights Analysis.

Van Zyl Smit, Dirk; Appleton, Catherine Amelia. 2019, Harvard University Press (HUP). STOLAV, NTNUVitenskapelig monografi
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