Human rights in Russia in the shadow of the gulag: penal transitology as bureaucratic drama

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In this paper, I develop a new theoretical framework that brings offers a muti-disciplinary approach (history, criminology, sociology, and political science) to better understand Russian penal development since the collapse of the USSR in 1991. The new theoretical framework, penal transitology, aims to locate a significant time of penal change in diverse, and disputative, external compliance-building and bureaucratic regimes. I argue that due to transnational regulation dominating post-Soviet imprisonment, the penal system operates in a state of constant institutional risk and regulation. This transnational milieu is one where shaming strategies have created new sociological contexts for thinking critically about penal reform. Those contexts concern the extent to which European institutions and legal and powerful NGO regulation have produced and embedded compliance regimes that have the effect (intended or otherwise) of erasing discourse on the role of the prison in state-society relations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages35
JournalLaw & Social Inquiry
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 27 Jan 2022


  • penal
  • transitology
  • compliance
  • conformance
  • risk
  • bureacracy

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