Issue 1 - September 2010

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Problems of reoffending of young detainees
Conclusions of the follow-up research of the Center for Penal and Criminological Research (University of Athens) [1]

                                                                                              by Nestor E. Courakis
       Professor of Criminology
       University of Athens

1. This proposal focuses on conclusions of the research which was conducted between May 1999 and June 2000 by the Center for Penal and Criminological Research, University of Athens.

This research was characterized as a follow-up because its main purpose was to discover first, what happened to Greek juvenile detainees with whom we had run interviews in the previous stage of the research (1993) in the correctional institutions of Korydallos and Kassaveteia and secondly what consequences their confinement in prison had later in their lives.

In this research 30 undergraduate and postgraduate students of the University of Athens [2]  participated as researchers for longer periods of time supervised by the academic coordinator Criminologists Ms Foteini Milioni. The young researchers were given a reward by the University of Athens.

Two types of partly structured questionnaires were used for the interviews, one consisting of 31 questions for the young juveniles who were outside prison (“non imprisoned”) and one consisting of 29 questions from those who were imprisoned (“imprisoned’).

Out of 156 juvenile detainees who had been examined in the Juvenile Prisons in 1993 it was possible to find 113 after persistent efforts from the beginning. Fifty of them were found in prison again (only one though was serving his sentence since 1993) another 53 outside prison while for another 10 juveniles it was discovered from the declaration of their relatives that they were not any longer alive (5) or they were hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital (1) or they were living abroad (1) or they refused to participate in this research (3).

2. Main conclusion of the research: Since 1993 and until 1999-2000 i.e. in a period of time of 6-7 years only one out of the five of the juvenile ex-offenders who were spotted from the beginning (a percentage of 19,8%) was not led at some point again in the prisons and no punishment was imposed on him/her.  It is a matter of fact which confirms the main hypothesis of this research that the procedure of the gradual adjustment of these juveniles in the institutional subculture of prison substantially hinders or/and makes inevitable their social reintegration after the imprisonment. In addition most of the juveniles (a percentage over 80%) having embraced the patterns of this subculture are led to commit new criminal acts.
Which are however the more special characteristics of the subject juveniles and why most of them follow a criminal career after their release?

3. From the first stage of this research in 1993 it was already discovered that these juveniles with an average age of around 20 years old and mostly men were poor young people with little education and with disturbed family relationships who had early retirement from home and school. More specifically, a high percentage of their parents were illiterate (46% against 8% of the general population) and a majority were of low income (technicians, manufacturers etc). Moreover in a substantially high percentage of cases (39%) at least one of the physical parents had already left home or had passed away. But even in the cases where parents were living together, they were arguing (35%) and they were inflicting unnecessary physical punishment on their children (32%).  In this unsettling family framework, school did not seem to offer to the juvenile an alternative possibility of psychological tranquility and social integration. For that reason many juveniles were almost not going to school at all (27% illiterate) but also those who went, disliked it, with the result that many of them (56%) had to repeat the class because of absence. They simultaneously commenced earning their own living mainly from the young age of 13 but without feeling happy or satisfied in their jobs. They were hooked in this way by gangs where “junkies” predominated (a percentage of 43% out of the total number). They soon started becoming addicted to drugs themselves. In this research they admitted that they had already then tried drugs in a percentage of 61% (especially before their imprisonment) and that the at least 1/3 of them (37%) were “frequently” taking drugs i.e. they were addicted to them. From that point and to the first (minor) theft, in order to survive, the distance was short and the path sealed. In the sensitive age of 13 or 14 years old, their first involvement with the justice system or their confinement in correctional institutions for 10-12 months is already noted. This time was of course objectively brief but enough on the other hand for the juveniles to familiarise themselves with the concept of prison and its institutional sub culture, to learn the “knowhow of committing crimes” from other more experienced fellow prisoners and, finally, to be released from the prison with all the tools for committing not only (minor) thefts but also robberies, murders, rapes etc. One of the main conclusions of this first stage of this research was that those juveniles, who were imprisoned for serious criminal actions with a sentence of two years and over, had already by an overwhelming majority (96,7%) been detained before in a correctional institution. This fact proves the complete inefficiency of the so-called “correction” of the juvenile prisons and inevitably in most cases the juveniles turn to crime and a “criminal career” as the only way out of the deadlock of the landmine of their drug addicted life.
4. From such a problematic base the juveniles whom we met after 6-7 years i.e. in the second stage of our research (1999-2000) did not appear by a majority, to find their feet and avoid new involvement in the criminal justice system. As it has already been stressed, only one out of the five juveniles, a 26-27 year old managed not to be imprisoned again and not to be sentenced for a committed crime. Those who were found to be imprisoned again (total 53) had ALL been imprisoned on average at least twice. The main crimes for which they were then imprisoned were robbery (42%) and theft (32%) i.e. crimes against property obviously in connection with acquisition of their drugs while a lower percentage were found guilty for drug dealing and possession of drugs (12%), bodily harm (8%) and murder (4%). These same detainees admitted that they had also committed crimes for which they were never arrested primarily thefts (18%) while 53 of the non imprisoned made similar admissions mainly in relation to non discovered thefts (26%) and bodily harm (32%).
5. Apart from their repeated involvement with the justice system and also due to the obvious relation with this involvement, the juveniles we met in the second stage of our research appeared to be still addicted to drugs. Indeed, out the total number of the given answers it was discovered that only the 27% of those questioned had never tried drugs while almost 37% of the questioned admitted that they “frequently” used drugs (in the imprisoned the percentage is 43% and the non imprisoned 33%). It is interesting that 19% of those questioned considered that they had been influenced to take drugs by their imprisonment while the percentages of those who contacted a therapeutic community on the other hand to detoxify themselves were low (23% imprisoned and 17,5% non imprisoned). As the “most popular” substance for 58% of the imprisoned (against the 27% of non imprisoned) appears to be cannabis while class A drugs follow (heroin and cocaine) for 54% of the imprisoned (against 10%) and the pills which are dispensed by doctors (36% for the imprisoned against 17% of the non imprisoned). Despite the above juveniles in their majority believe that “one should not take drugs” (67% of the imprisoned and 73% of the non imprisoned) but those were only rhetorical pronouncements. On the contrary, on a practical level, the involvement with drugs and the subsequent criminal activity seems to be determinative for the juvenile ex prisoners. As one of those questioned said “drugs are responsible for the change of behavior, for the crimes I committed (…) and young people commit”.  

6. A third aspect of the life of juveniles, apart from their involvement in the justice system and drugs, is the possibility they have for employment. The problems of this are insurmountable. Apart from their incomplete vocational training and specialisation which existed during their adolescence and of course was not improved in prisons with very few vocational programs, employment is substantially hindered by another three factors:
Firstly, prison has destructive consequences for their personality that is to say that it makes them lazy. If to this destruction due to drug addiction is added, it is easy to understand the difficulty that such a juvenile has in responding to the demands of a job or even the position of an employee. Secondly, problems are created by the position of the juvenile as an ex prisoner who possibly has a relationship with drugs. Prejudice and stigma prevent most employers from employing such juveniles. This results in the juveniles finding refuge again in tranquallisers and drugs. Thirdly, the assistance and support to the juveniles by the competent authorities in order to find employment is minimal. In their vast majority, these authorities neither keep a record, nor offer substantial assistance to the juveniles. From the contact our Research Group had with 24 authorities of the public and the private sector and 14 certified organisations for employment rehabilitation (KEK) with programmes for juvenile offenders it was discovered that only 7 such authorities and organisations gave such data for juveniles who we were searching and that only a few juveniles of our initial sample (in total 14 cases) requested and were given help especially financial. The job vacancies advertised by OAED and which were financed were not enough to cover the problem of unemployment of those juveniles since usually they refer to “socially excluded”, “ex- prisoners”, “ex drug users” etc. i.e. stereotypes classes which even by their name perpetuate the problem of stigmatisation and therefore employment. Subsequently, the fact that only the 15% of those questioned had the assistance of the OAED does not cause a surprise.
Apart from the above problems, juveniles, even if they find full time employment (40% imprisoned and 30% non imprisoned), consider that they are not satisfied and the money they earn is not enough for their living (61% imprisoned and 58,5% non imprisoned). The kind of employment also they manage to find is usually of low income: manufacturers, technicians, small traders, workers or drivers (42% for imprisoned and 30% for the non imprisoned). In any case the achievement of finding employment for juveniles appears to be realistic only when there is an offer of employment for unskilled labour or when an entrepreneurial structure is provided by the family of the juvenile.  
7. It should be noted that generally the family of juveniles is considered by them to be and it is indeed their most important supporters. Thus, juveniles believe that they can rely indeed on the trust of “their own people” and especially their relatives (46%), spouse or partner (20%) and their children (6%) while in reverse it is impressive that a percentage of 7% of juveniles who declared that there was no one whom they consider “their own person”.
8. Regarding the problems and difficulties which juvenile ex prisoners are afraid they will confront as a whole (imprisoned and non imprisoned) first in the hierarchy is employment (39%), financial difficulties (32%) and problems of drug use (5%) follow. These problems lead almost 1/5 of those questioned (20,4%) to clearly accept the possibility of committing a new crime if their efforts are defeated. Most of them of course, almost 55% of those questioned, consider that their deeper wish is to forget the “nightmare” of prison and to a smaller degree “to start a new life”. In practice though as it is concluded by other similar questions, and was already noted above, over a 4/5 of the questioned i.e. over the 80% do not manage to avoid reoffending within 6-7 years after their imprisonment.
9. Who is responsible for that?
As is supported by the answers given by those questioned for the influences that the prison had on their personalities, a large number (34% of the total but 77% of the imprisoned) consider that they adopted in prison rules of behavior which they follow even afterwards such as “to look after themselves only”, “not to care about others”, “to learn how to commit illegal actions” and to keep the principle “see, listen, be quiet”. More generally also, as is supported by discussions with them they learn to obey rules only because these are imposed from above without realising the value of discipline. Further imprisonment seems to have altered deeper their personality since not only it accustomed them to laziness but it also familiarised them gradually with the institutionalised subculture of prison, the thought of which instead of scaring them, feels to them as Kavafis put it “a kind of a solution”. A confession of one of the questioned juveniles is characteristic: “In the community of prisons we live better. Out there there are financial unpredictable disasters…Out there it is more dangerous, in we are safer”. This is of course the so called mentality of “institutionalisation” which Goffman analyses so deeply in his book “Asyla” (1961 and Greek translation edn. Evrialos, 1994).

10. Final question: What can be done to confront the situation?
I am afraid that with the habitual criminals such as the juveniles we met again in the second stage of our research the possibility of stopping reoffending is small, because of the deep corruption of their personalities due to imprisonment. Even with these habitual criminals, new imprisonment can only cause problems to them and society since the crimes committed by them after every new release will be worse. Support of these people by their families or/and the creation by them of an autonomous family in connection with the learning of a trade, finding employment and the psychological support by social workers could possibly contribute substantially even to their late integration into society. More possibilities of success exist of course in younger ages where the tree has not already been “twisted”. In a very important Recommendation of the Cross party Parliamentary Committee for the Examination of the Correctional System of the Country (Athens, July 1994- see text in N. Kourakis (etc), Erevna stis Ellinikes Fylakes, A’, A.N. Sakkoulas, “Poinika”, no. 44, Athens/Komotini 1995, p. 263 onwards, esp. p. 308 onwards and no. 50) it was stressed that there is a need to “introduce new forms of criminal penalties which will be governed by more imagination and will be adjusted to the psychology of the specific delinquent juvenile”  while the need “to exhibit care in the big issue of which juveniles the competent authorities should release given that our legislation (…) allows this only if the criminal offence which the juvenile committed carried a sentence of over 10 years imprisonment” had also been mentioned. As it is already known since the end of 2003, new legislation for juveniles introduced a whole series of non institutional correctional measures for delinquent juveniles such as appointing custody of the juvenile to a foster family and the mediating between the juvenile and the victim for apologising and settling the consequences of the criminal act outside the court (art. 122 para. 1 per. c’ and e’ of the Criminal Code). It was also given to the Prosecution the possibility of avoiding issuing criminal proceedings against the juvenile if they consider that under certain conditions their exercise is not necessary in order to prevent the juvenile from committing new crimes. It must be acknowledged that even before the new legislation was enforced, but even more now, the Greek Courts were sparing in imprisoning juveniles or confining them in institutions (for instance a percentage of 10% in 2003-2004) obviously acting in knowledge of the disastrous consequences that imprisonment has in the progress of a delinquent juvenile. Therefore, with the new legislation those who apply the law in cooperation with the Probation Officers, have a wider “range” of non institutional correctional measures (eleven in total) so that they do not only stop, in a mild way, the criminal career of a budding delinquent juvenile, but also succeed with his/her timely (re)-integration in society. It is in our hands to take advantage of these possibilities for the benefit of the juveniles in our society.                    
[1] Text of the proposal presented and discussed in the 12th Programme of Training of the National School for Judges (Komotini, 11-14.10.2005). A comprehensive display of the research conclusions in: Eug. Stathopoulou/Fot. Milioni/ N. Kourakis, Nearoi kratoumenoi meta tin apofylakisi tous, journal “Poinikos Logos”, 2004, 2895-2912. Text of the proposal presented and discussed in the 12th Programme of Training of the National School for Judges (Komotini, 11-14.10.2005). A comprehensive display of the research conclusions in: Eug. Stathopoulou/Fot. Milioni/ N. Kourakis, Nearoi kratoumenoi meta tin apofylakisi tous, journal “Poinikos Logos”, 2004, 2895-2912.
[2] Adamopoulou Agapi, Augeri Theodora, Katsigianni Vassiliki, Kikili Sophia, Kouvelos Yiannis, Koulouris Nickos, Lapa Efi, Lyberis Vassilis, Mitsis Georgios, Ntoura Foteini, Xouri Eudoxia, Panagopoulou Fereniki, Papageorgiou Anastasia, Papageorgiou Chara, Papaefstartiou Athina-Anastasia, Papaioannou Christos, Papapanagiotou Christina, Patakas Stamatis, Patalioutis Panagiotis, Petropoulou Eleni-Antigoni, Siochou Vassiliki, Sobolou Anthi, Stathopoulou Anastasia, Sfendylakis Yiannis, Tatarakis Manos, Tsichli Dafne, Tsoumanis Nickos, Feretzakis Georgios, Chatzilogiou Sophia and Chionis Dionysis

Emeritus Professor Calliope Spinellis
"Today, there are several well-qualified criminologists in Greece".

Victim offender mediation in family violence cases
The greek experience

by Vasso Artinopoulou,
Ass. Professor of Criminology,  Panteion University (GR) 
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Improving prison conditions in Greece
... by Nestor E. Courakis
Professor of Criminology & Penology
Faculty of Law, University of Athens (GR)
"This editorial is dedicated to prisons and the Greek penal system since we believe it is the duty of any society to give priority to correctional topics and have as its main objective to improve prison conditions.
How might this improvement be achieved, however?
With this issue we celebrate the English-language edition of the Greek electronic journal “The Art of Crime”. It would be trite to discuss here emotions such as elation and hope that of course are called for at a time like this. The overwhelming emotion, at least to me, is gratitude to the main protagonists of this first criminological electronic magazine in our country, i.e. to Fotios Spyropoulos and Dionysis Chionis ..."

Scientific colloquium on:
“Criminological Aspects of Migration in Greece”

"EPANODOS" (“Return” back to the society)
Rehabilitation Center for ex-prisoners
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Congress of the Greek Society of Criminology:
"Criminology and current challenges"

Combating discrimination and social exclusion:
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Innocent prisoners and deceived offenders
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Have you ever considered what it would be like to be wrongly arrested by the authorities, detained on remand, and after a few months it was proved that you had been wrongly accused and had nothing to do with the case? The issue of wrongful remand of prisoners came to light again in Greece with the case of a young man from the greek island of Mytilene who was arrested and prosecuted for rape and attempted serial rape of 5 women...

Constantine Gardikas
Constantine Gardikas, the son of George Gardikas, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Athens, was born in the city of Patras in 1896. Constantine Gardikas developed into a prolific scientist with a solid classical education.

He studied law in Athens, and he continued his studies in Zurich and Geneva specializing in criminal law and criminology.  He received his doctorate degree at the age of 22 and then started lecturing at the University of Geneva, Switzerland. ...

Advice on the use of credit cards

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We are familiar, therefore, with the use of credit cards, but how well do we know to protect ourselves from credit card fraud?

“Asking people…”
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The events that took place in late 2008, in Greece, in the state correctional facilities, the hunger strike of prisoners and the widespread violent protests concerning prison conditions didn’t leave us unaffected. So we found the opportunity to ask people’s opinion on this important issue. We take the recorder into the street ... and ask YOUR opinion:

"Do you believe there must be changes in the conditions of imprisonment in our country and if so, what should they be?”


The profile of a famous greek criminal through the eye of a camera, the lyrics of a song and his autobiography

A book, a song, and a movie with the same protagonist…
Nikos Koemtzis, a famous Greek criminal who killed three people and stabbed seven more, all because he wanted to dance to a song he had "ordered" from the musicians in a music hall. He transferred the story of his life to a book. Dionysis Savvopoulos (a famous Greek singer-songwriter) read the book and turned it into a song. Pavlos Tassios (a well known Greek director) heard the song and made a film. And now we present a criminologist’s scientific analysis of this artistic triptych.
A case study of a recidivist criminal
This is the interesting story of a recidivist criminal (Elias) who is incarcerated in a Greek prison. We managed to interview him, unattended, in late May 1999 in a special area in the guardhouse yard. The main topic of our conversation was his life story, the life of a young man through the prison bars… 


Constanteion - Centre of Criminology & Psychology Researches

Federation of Prison Officers

Professor Nestor Courakis

Ministry of Citizen Protection

I feel safe

Ministry of Justice, Transparency and Human Rights

Hellenic Supreme Court of Civil and Penal Law


Professor Giannis Panousis

Centre for Psychoanalytic Research

Sector of Criminal Sciences - Faculty of Law - National & Kapodistrian University of Athens

Association of greek criminologists - Panteion University

Centre of Social Research - Technological Education Institute of Messolonghi

Sector of Criminology - Panteion University

Sector of Penal and Criminological Sciences - Faculty of Law - Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

European Court of Human Rights - Search Portal

Hellenic League for Human Rights

Marangkopoulos Foundation for Human Rights

Faculty of Law - National & Kapodistrian University of Athens

Centre for Penal and Criminological Research

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