At a time when the euro crisis publicly engulfs the European identity in a political and ontological crisis, out of the public eye the European Court of Human Rights has commenced its deliberations on Vinter and Others v. United Kingdom following a hearing on the 28th of November 2012. The case concerns the compatibility of life long imprisonment with Article 3 (freedom from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. I argue that this case is timely for a number of reasons. While the abolition of the death penalty in Europe is celebrated as an expression of a European penal consciousness that itself can be seen as a trait of the European identity, in its wake the use and length of life sentences, including indeterminate prison sentences for public protection, show an alarming upward trend. This upward trend has taken place along many notable successes in the legalisation of prisoners' human rights as the European Court of Human Rights and national courts show greater willingness than ever before to scrutinise matters pertaining to prison policy and practice and prisoner treatment. Drawing on prison studies on the effects of life imprisonment, my own data from interviews with lifers in England & Wales and The Netherlands and relevant human rights based prison case law, I build an argument for the abolition of life long imprisonment in Europe and for a principled qua restrained approach to the use of life and indeterminate prison sentences. My claim is that, like the abolition of the death penalty, they too need to be part of the European (penal) consciousness - a consciousness that identifies with principles and values as important as the rule of law and human rights.
Karamalidou, A. (2015). Why do you lock me up since you think that I will never be good to come out? Better kill me-it is cheaper!. In A. Karamalidou, & A. Spurgeon-Dickson (Eds.), The Prison At The Crossroads. Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press