Dionysis Chionis - Anastasia Halkia
1) What have you studied and what is your current position?
I studied Law, Political and Economic Science at the Faculty of Law at the University of Athens. I attended my postgraduate studies in Criminology, Philosophy and Sociology of Law, Institutional History, Comparative Law and European Studies, abroad in Canada, Germany, Netherlands, but mainly in France. I received three Graduate Diplomas (Diplômes d΄ Études Supérieures) and the State Doctorate in Law (Doctorat d΄État en Droit) with the highest distinction «Très Honorable avec Éloge spécial du Jury» from the Faculty of Law at the University of Strasbourg.
Today, after more than thirty years of service at Panteion University of Athens teaching Criminology, and twenty years teaching appointments in prestigious foreign universities, I hold the position of Emeritus Professor and Postgraduate Program Director of Criminology at Panteion University.
2) You began working in Criminology at a time when Greece was not yet very developed. How did you come to choose this subject?
It is a little-known fact that our country was once a pioneer in the science of Criminology, thanks mainly to the efforts of the late Constantine Gardika1,who was my tutor. When the Greek prime minister visited Switzerland in 1929, he was introduced to Gardikas, who at the time was a distinguished professor (not of Criminology) at the University of Geneva, and one of the so-called four "wise men" who had written the 1923 statute that was later to become Interpol. Having returned to Greece, and on the recommendation of an old friend, the prolific Efstratios Fotakis, the prime minister founded a Special Chair of Criminology at the University of Athens and later in 1932 at Panteion (where Fotakis was a Committee Member) a Chair for "Investigation and Criminological Science" where Gardikas served as the first Professor. At that time, Belgium was the only other country to have a separate seat of Criminology. All the other nations that subsequently established Schools of Criminology, Institutes, etc., did so only after the Second World War.
So to answer your question, and demonstrate that nothing is completely random, it so happens that Efstratios Fotakis was my uncle, and I maintain the law firm founded in the early twentieth century by a successor to another my uncle, the eminent lawyer, (but not criminologist), Efstratios Viglas. Whilst still in his prime, Efstratios Fotakis died, and I was twelve years old. I inherited part of his great library which contained a number of Criminological books, written mostly in foreign language. Since I was familiar with foreign languages, I began my induction in Criminology. And you know the importance of such influences on a young mind. The second important factor for my involvement in Criminology was whilst teaching at the Faculty of Constantine Gardika, and later that of Jacques Léauté at Strasbourg, along with research carried out with the latter at the Institute of Criminology of the same university.
3) After 75 years of teaching criminology at Panteion University, and looking back at your achievements, what are your ambitions for the near future?
There is pending the pending issue of the establishment of a separate Department of Criminology. Greece, once a pioneer in this field, now lags behind the rest of the world. This request, following a unanimous decision of the Senate, is now at the Ministry of Education. Already since 1956, a report by UNESCO has laid sound foundations for a robust multidisciplinary training, in independent departments or institutes within the existing framework of Schools of Social and Political Sciences. Only Panteion University meets the requirements set out in the report. Among the first applications of the UNESCO recommendation was the simultaneous creation in 1960 of the famous School of Criminology in Montreal and the Institute of Criminology in Cambridge.
4) What role should should criminologists play in shaping policy against crime in contemporary Greece and which key institutional actors should be used to exercise this?
Although the role of Criminologists ought to be a central component, I am not optimistic. Usually criminologists are not heard or invited to express their views, even though their contribution is extremely useful if not indispensable in agencies that depend on the Ministry of Justice, Interior, Social Awareness, Education, etc.
5) Based on your experience in European and international organizations, which actions have proven most effective with respect to Crime Policy;
Having closely followed related developments, and participated in over 300 international symposia, conferences, etc. over the last forty years, I can safely say that the groundwork that has been laid down is significant. The role of some very active NGOs, both in proposing initiatives and applying pressure has also helped greatly. Unfortunately, all too often their recommendations and directives are not implemented by national governments.
WHO IS WHO
Job-title: Emeritus Professor of Criminology, Panteion University of Athens
Favorite activities, hobbies: Gardening, reading
Books: A plethora, with first and foremost the Greek classics.
Favorite movie: Les Misérables
Favorite music: Various genres, including Greek (folk, pop) and foreign (country). I also love classical music.
Favorite destination: the greek hinterland, particularly the islands.
6) Alternative institutions for crime prevention, such as Local Crime Prevention Councils and alternative modes of sentencing, such as social work, continue to remain practically inactive in our country. What is the reason for this?
Regarding the former, it is a fact that it successful pilot schemes in other countries were never adopted here, and meanwhile there is no pyramidal organizational hierarchy (national, regional, local), or centralized joint-ministerial task forces. As for the rest, it is due to the fact that the necessary support services have not been created, whilst there are also judicial problems.
7) Throughout the historical development of Criminology, which scientific approaches do you consider to have contributed most significantly to its current iteration?
More or less all the known approaches. Each contributed, although some more than others. Even seemingly extreme or critical attacks on Criminology itself had some positive effects, since they challenged aspects we took for granted and thus helped to correct our course.
8) What are the main theoretical arguments that Criminology has inherited from ancient Greek thought?
This is a vast subject. I will quote Maurice Jodelet in his doctoral thesis entitled “La conception de la peine chez Platon”: ”there is no concept espoused by modern penologists or criminologists, ranging from a seed of thought to a fully fledged contemporary idea, which has not been covered by the theories of the Greeks.
Both Gardikas and others, myself included, have published monographs and articles in Greek and foreign journals to this effect. I believe it would benefit all young criminologists who haven’t already done so, to consult my book "Criminological theory. From antiquity until today." They should not ignore their heritage.
9) The number of new criminologists in Greece is rising. What would you advise them and what changes do you anticipate they will bring?
Having direct contact with young Criminologists through the graduate studies program, I am determined we will see a rebirth of Criminological studies and research in our country. They posses a significant advantage over their foreign peers, provided the administration can develop the appropriate educational framework, the establishment of research centers in all ministries, agencies and services, in order to utilize this human potential. Furthermore these resources should be employed exclusively by the various agencies, as is the case in Canada.
I would advise them to continue with the same enthusiasm, to deal with the critical issues in good faith, and have an honest attitude towards the object of study, bearing in mind that no one person is bearer of the truth. It is what we are all seeking. To avoid frustration and always keep up to date with both theoretical developments and the findings of empirical research, or at least those carried out with the requisite rigor.
10) What was the highlight of your academic career?
There were many memorable moments. One of the best was appointing a former pupil as Professor of Criminology. Fortunately, there are many appointed at various universities in the country. Also, my acquaintance and collaboration with leading figures in the field, foremost of which my decades-long cooperation and friendship with Aliki Yotopoulou-Marangopoulou.
 The father of Criminology in Greece, for more information please see “Who is Constantine Gardikas”, issue 1 The Art of Crime (ENG).