"Victim" of this interview is one of the most well known greek criminologists, Professor Emeritus Calliope D. Spinellis. Her CV is almost amazing! She has been Professor of Criminology and Penology at the Faculty of Law of the University of Athens. At the time, she is the Vice director of the Centre for Penal and Criminological Research of the same University and, also, Vice president of the Greek Society of Criminologists. Furthermore, she has been Former President of the Board of the KETHEA (acronym for Therapy Center for Dependent Individuals, a non-profit, non-governmental organisation) and she has served as ad-hoc judge at the European Court of Human Rights. Calliope D. Spinellis is probably the best ambassador of the greek criminology abroad... Let΄s read her opinions...
Interview by Dennis Chionis,
PhD Candidate, Lawyer – Criminologist,
Center for Penal and Criminological Research
• What was it that drove you to get involved in criminology?
A series of decisions: Initially, before graduating from secondary school I had already chosen my theoretical direction, notably the Science of Themis (Science of Law)1, despite the fact that I was fascinated by mathematics (especially algebra), design and architecture.
Secondly my decision was influenced by my studies at the Law School of Athens University, when I first came in contact with a very interesting subject that was humane, with philosophical implications and social concerns.
Thirdly, my career as a scientific assistant at the Institute of International and Foreign Law where I began to review the books and journals that dealt with the criminological sciences, sociology, philosophy of law and family law.
Moreover a major contributor to my selection of criminological science - was a brief voluntary counseling at the Greek Institute of Education for Delinquent Girls. There I saw, (a) my personal shortcomings – despite my graduation from the Law School I didn’t have the appropriate qualifications for this position - and (b) the shortcomings of the Prison system.
Finally, my decision to visit institutions in the U.S. and glean knowledge of the treatment of prisoners. Criminology, in its broadest sense, had won me over. My six-month stay, according to the plan, showed me that simple visits to institutions and discussions with experts, however well organized, did not lead to the acquisition of insightful knowledge.
Therefore, using my law degree I was accepted into the University of Loyola, where my tutor formulated, especially for me, a program for monitoring and examinations in various subjects areas such as sociology, psychology, counseling, and psychiatry.
A year passed, and my need for further understanding of criminology, one of the lessons in sociology, became evident. So I applied to the University of Chicago - known for the Chicago School, or the ecological theory of crime creation that was developed there - and was accepted for my first postgraduate degree (Master in Comparative Law). This degree was administered by my Faculty, but included other sectors: I took some courses in the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Services Administration in order to obtain the required credits. Both the Law School, and the other departments had excellent teachers, well-known in international literature, such as Max Rheinstein (Comparative Law and Family Law), Karl Llwelyn (Introduction to Law and Philosophy of Law), James Short (criminologist researcher), Robert Hess (Psychologist researcher), Jim Shireman (Chief Administrator of Minors), Margaret Keeny Rosenheim (Juvenile Law), Bruno Bettelheim (psychiatrist, psychotherapist), etc.
The rest is history! My Masters degree, completed with a thesis on the institution of probation under supervision, was merely a foretaste of my criminological knowledge. This paved the way for my doctoral studies...
• How difficult was it to get involved in criminology, when as a science in Greece it was at such an early stage of development?
Indeed, my return to Greece was a hard landing, especially since whilst waiting for the three-member committee to read my thesis, I had already been assigned, initially as a researcher and then as Director of Information, for matters of justice for juvenile offenders from the "National Council of Juvenile Judges” that resided in the American Bar Association – of America, not an individual state. So, I had at my disposal a vast library and incredible research facilities. The "information" was to provide legal answers to questions on legislation and case law as presented in books and practice (law in the books and law in action). Questions addressed to the Council came from Judges, legislative work committees, etc. and concerned either the law of a particular European country, a continent (eg Australia, which has a developed criminological and crime prevention policy) or a U.S. state.
When the doctorate process was completed, I was granted a six-month leave to explore job opportunities in Greece. They believed that I wouldn’t find anything worthwhile and would return. They were wrong. Eventually, I requested a second six-month leave. The choice was difficult. I had to choose between abandoning the research, professional and Criminological haven in the U.S. and the desert of Greece. Greece won. I had decided to contribute a little more to the existing body of work.
• How has the situation developed in the field of Criminological science today?
Myself and several peers have written about the development of criminology in Greece, especially in recent years. Here the subject of Criminology, in the broadest sense, is taught at six universities in the country (Athens, Thessaloniki, Panteion, Thrace, Aegean, Peloponnese) in Technical Educational Institutes (TEI) for Social Services, at the Police Academy and elsewhere. These institutions also conduct research. Criminal investigation is also promoted by the National Centre for Social Research. The latter’s publishing activities contributed significantly to the establishment and development of Criminology in our country. These days a research on the quality of life of children in schools in the district of the City of Athens is being completed. The research is conducted in cooperation with the Deputy Mayor and raises key issues such as the student aggression, violence in schools, the distribution of addictive substances, etc.
Today, there are several well-qualified criminologists in Greece. The criminologists participate in legislative committees of ministries, in councils for determining crime prevention policy, the Ombudsman - Department of Children΄s Rights (two PhDs in our field of criminology). Also, there are already established positions in correctional facilities: A candidate doctor is already serving in the Prisoners΄ Rehabilitation Centre in Thebes, and a criminologist- a former student and latter partner from our criminological courses, is in the Korydallos prison. I must note that Greek legislation explicitly recognizes the title and scope of Criminology. These are all recent achievements and prove the recognition as a sector, which now has a professional association: the Greek Society of Criminology, which is Greek branch of the International Society of Criminology, headquartered in Paris and has consultative status at all major international organizations.
• Are you satisfied with the level of our country compared with the European or international equivalent?
After all I have said I must confess that I am satisfied overall. However, since this is a comparative question, I will respond in kind: Criminology in Greece is clearly and unfortunately not at the same level of treatment or utilization of knowledge than the EU15, the U.S. or Australia (at EU 27 level this picture differs).
• What is the role of criminologists today?
This question partly refers to the above examples of careers in criminology. Besides that, we should note the areas of (a) research and (b) teaching in higher educational institutions and other schools. Use criminological knowledge is also possible by employees in the criminal justice system (police, prosecution, courts, bailiffs assist adult children curators, i.e. enforcement agencies, extra-institutional sanctions, and detention facilities of all kinds. Finally, in a supporting role criminologists play an important part in advisory, consultative committees, councils, etc. that define the crime prevention policy of our country.
• How do the different backgrounds of criminologists, e.g. law, sociology, psychology, shape the science?
Criminology is by nature interdisciplinary. The late founder of Criminology in Greece, Mr. Gardikas, wrote that Criminology is based on the findings of other disciplines such as biology, anthropology, psychology, sociology, statistics, medicine, psychiatry, law and even architecture (when considering detention facilities). Accordingly, the fact that criminologists come from different sectors, is part of the territory. This is not a hindrance, nor does it cause insurmountable scientific disputes and contradictions. Instead, it often proves enrichment, involvement and interaction of scientists with different scientific backgrounds working constructively.
• What do you anticipate will change with the new generation of criminologists, and what advice would you give them?
The previous comments point to a general and more specific deficit.
The general deficit concerns:
- Competition for adequate research funds for the participation of Greece in European and international (via the UN) research (e.g. research of victimization) and
- Timely availability of crime statistics, comparable with Eurostat.
The specific deficit is associated with the Department of Criminal Science. It requires:
- Strengthening and recognition of criminological approaches in Graduate Programs and
- Better training of our criminologists in terms of methodology and basic statistical analysis.
• How does the lack of criminological education affect police, lawyers, judges (and others) in the criminal justice system?
I do not agree that there is such a shortage. There is a lack of in-service training. The issue therefore is the organization and regular execution within these bodies, of seminars, training of new recruits and retraining older workers in the field, at regular intervals. In the private sector this approach is successfully implemented, and contributes to improving the efficiency of services offered.
• In what areas does our country’s criminal justice system need immediate improvement?
I think there are five key areas requiring immediate action:
- Institutionalization and experimental implementation of restorative justice (extra-judicial settlement of minor crimes, mediation, victim compensation, etc.)
- Implementation of provisions that have existed since 1991 and provide for extra-institutional sentencing (suspended sentencing, conditional release with supervision, community service), but that have not been implemented for various reasons.
- Experimental and non-coercive implementation of electronic surveillance for certain criminals
- adopting the principle of expediency in the prosecution of certain crimes,
- evaluation by research institutions of procedural reforms made to streamline the administration of criminal justice and relieve the courts, generally any legislative changes should be assessed after two years of application.
• What was the best moment you remember from your academic career?
My academic career did not have a single "best moment" but rather a series of them, often very positive and emotional moments. I remember:
- My contribution to the creation of the Graduate Program of the Department of Criminal Sciences at the School of Law, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens and its approval by the Ministry of Education and Religious Studies,
- My active presence, more accurately not mine, but the Legal Department of the University of Athens, at universities in the Member States of the EU-15 as president of the Legal Department of the Erasmus / Socrates programmes,
- My collaboration in passages or papers presented at meetings of the UN, the Council of Europe or Greek law making committees, particularly when, after their publication, I could recognize my contribution.
I would like to conclude this interview with my congratulations to all those working in the Centre for Penal and Criminological Research, and my colleague Mr N. Courakis, who inspires you. I would also request that you read the above bearing in mind that my answers retain a didactic nature. Perhaps this is due to the challenges contained within these interesting questions. Perhaps because secretly, I wished to convey to younger generations the way our Law School worked...in the last century!
 Themis is an ancient Greek goddess. She is described as "of good counsel", and is the embodiment of divine order, law, and custom. Themis means "law of nature" rather than human ordinance, literally "that which is put in place", from the verb τίθημι, títhēmi, "to put". To the ancient Greeks she was originally the organizer of the "communal affairs of humans, particularly assemblies". Moses Finley remarked of themis, as the word was used by Homer in the 8th century, to evoke the social order of the 10th- and 9th-century Greek Dark Ages.