Speaker: Dr Kirstin Drenkhahn, Freie Universität Berlin


In our Franco-German project on penal cultures on the European continent, we set out to study the role of punishment in the societies of France and Germany which are usually cited as the prime examples of continental penal moderation – in the international literature. In our domestic criminological literature, the narrative is quite different and mostly highlights elements of the punitive turn in French and German penal policies and legislation.

The talk is based on the final chapter of the book “Impending Challenges to Penal Moderation in France and Germany: A Strained Restraint” on the project’s findings.

I’ll briefly explain our approach to studying the penal cultures in France and Germany and summarize the key findings with a view to penal moderation, how it is challenged and how the public, politicians and the media interact in the production of penal moderation. In our data, we find a dynamic between these three spheres of a constant renegotiation of rational restraint and passionate outbursts – a strained restraint. While these outbursts as well as assumptions about attitudes in the population in particular contribute to an increase in punitiveness foremost in penal legislation, these reactions are themselves moderate in their outcome.