Sonja Snacken is Professor of Criminology, Penology and Sociology of Law at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, where she was Vice-Rector in charge of International Policy from 2016 to 2018. She was also a professor at Ghent University from 1999 to 2009.

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older of a law degree (1978), a degree in criminology (1980) and a doctorate in criminology (1985), her research focuses on penality in Belgium and Europe, including sentencing and the implementation of custodial and non-custodial sanctions and measures.

She has been involved in over forty research projects, at European, national and local level, with a special emphasis on the integration of an empirical social scientist approach with human rights concerns.

Her interest has recently broadened to other forms of (extreme) institutional dependency. She is currently focusing on areas such as open reception centres for asylum seekers, euthanasia requests by prisoners, the impact of European norms on prison reform in Russia, and the pathways of prisoners without legal residence permits.

Sonja Snacken participates in several international scientific networks, both anglophone and francophone. She is a founding member of the European Society of Criminology and served as its president from 2004 to 2005. She is currently still a member of the working groups on community sanctions and measures and on prison life and the effects of imprisonment.

She was a member (2001-2012) and president (2006-2012) of the Council for Penological Cooperation of the Council of Europe, drafting recommendations such as the European Prison Rules (2006) and the Council of Europe Probation Rules (2010).

At the Belgian level, she played an active part in drafting the Act of 12th January 2005 on the internal legal status of prisoners and the Act of 17th May 2006 on the external legal status of persons sentenced to a custodial sentence and the rights of victims in the context of the arrangements for enforcing the sentence.

From 2010 to 2011, Sonja Snacken was a Research Fellow at the Straus Institute for the Advanced Study of Law and Justice at the New York University School of Law and, since 2010, has been a Collaborateur-membre of the Centre International de Criminologie Comparée of the Université de Montréal.

She is a member of the Editorial Board of the scientific journals Punishment and Society, Déviance et Société and Panopticon.

She was awarded the Belgian Francqui Chair at the Université Catholique de Louvain (2008-2009), the 2010 FWO Ernest-John Solvay Prize for Scientific Excellence for Human and Social Sciences by the National Science Foundation and the 2015 European Criminology Award for her lifetime contribution to European Criminology.

In awarding her this distinction, the Faculty of Law, Political Science and Criminology of the University of Liège wishes to highlight the invaluable contribution of Professor Sonja Snacken to Belgian and international criminology, as well as her strong commitment to the rights of institutionalised persons.


Doctors honoris causa upon proposal by faculties in 2020