Risk reduction and redemption: an interpretive account of the right to rehabilitation in the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights

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This article offers new insights into ECtHR jurisprudence that recognises a right to rehabilitation for prisoners but also recognises a nebulous ‘right to security’ on behalf of the public that threatens to undermine its commitments to prisoners’ rights. It distinguishes two distinct concepts of rehabilitation underpinning the ECtHR’s jurisprudence: rehabilitation as risk reduction and rehabilitation as redemption. The first is shaped by a modern preoccupation with identifying and eliminating risk factors for offending. The second reflects the idea that offending is a sign of bad character but that people can atone for their crimes and mend their ways by working hard to change themselves. The article concludes that the ECtHR, by placing the onus on life-sentenced prisoners to demonstrate they have achieved rehabilitation in order to earn release from prison, risks entrenching the trends of popular punitiveness and precautionary penal warehousing that it has sought to oppose.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbergqaa060
Number of pages29
JournalOxford Journal of Legal Studies
Issue number2
Early online date22 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s) 2020. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • Criminology
  • Human Rights
  • Risk assessment
  • Offender rehabilitation
  • sentencing
  • punishment

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