Prisons of the past: Penal nationalism and the politics of punishment in Central Europe

Lynne Haney

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    This article explores the politics of punishment in contemporary Central Europe. Based on an analysis of penal policies and discourses in Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic, it examines how penal politics have taken shape in a region with direct experience with the abuses of penal confinement. On the one hand, it reveals how Central European politicians and state actors used tough, law and order rhetoric to reimagine the postsocialist community and to redraw the lines of social inclusion and exclusion, thus developing a uniquely East European penal nationalism that equates punitiveness with national sovereignty and protection. At the same time, the article argues that this penal nationalism emerged largely as a response to the dilemmas of democratization in the region—to the political challenges of forging new solidarities amid changing social boundaries and of state and political actors’ ongoing legitimacy crises. In this way, the article uncovers the layers of complexity that characterize the postsocialist world of punishment as well as the intersecting influences of past and present, of global and local, and of ideology and practice on those politics.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)346-368
    Number of pages23
    JournalPunishment and Society
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Jul 1 2016


    • Central Europe
    • democratiztion
    • penal politics

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
    • Law


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