Special Issue "Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights"


A special issue of Laws (ISSN 2075-471X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 November 2014)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Robert Johnson
Department of Justice, Law, and Criminology, American University, 4400 Massachusetts Avenue, Washington, DC 20016, USA
Website: http://www.american.edu/spa/faculty/rjohnso.cfm
E-Mail: Robert.johnson@american.edu
Phone: (202) 885-2951
Interests: the prison and other institutions of punishment and confinement; the death penalty; institutional violence; race and justice in America; creative writing and social justice

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue of Laws—Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights—focuses on the severe criminal sanctions available in modern justice systems, in practice if not also in law.  These sanctions range from sentences to jails and prisons marked by conditions of incarceration that are degrading, through to uniquely cruel sanctions and practices such as solitary confinement, permanent confinement, torture, and execution. Much has been written about incarceration and other penal sanctions from a sociological point of view. Little scholarship has focused on extreme penal sanctions from a human rights perspective, a perspective that has at its core a respect for human dignity.  This issue will include writings that focus on these penal sanctions from a human rights perspective, works that establish the state of practice with respect to these penal sanctions, and works that suggest reforms.  Authors working on articles focusing on human rights concerns relevant to harsh penal sanctions are encouraged to contribute to this issue.  Research and theory drawing on the law, the social sciences, and the humanities are welcome.

Prof. Robert Johnson, Ph.D.
Guest Editor


Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Laws is an international peer-reviewed Open Access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. For the first couple of issues the Article Processing Charge (APC) will be waived for well-prepared manuscripts. English correction and/or formatting fees of 250 CHF (Swiss Francs) will be charged in certain cases for those articles accepted for publication that require extensive additional formatting and/or English corrections.


Daly, Erin. Dignity Rights: Courts, Constitutions, and the Worth of the Human Person. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

Ferguson, Robert. Inferno: An Anatomy of American Punishment. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014

Johnson, Robert. Death Work: A Study of the Modern Execution Process, 2nd ed. Belmont: Wadsworth, l998.

Liebling, Alison. “Moral Performance, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment and Prison Pain.” Punishment & Society 13, no. 5 (2011): 530–50.

Smith, Peter Scharff. “Imprisonment and Internet-Access: Human Rights: The Principle of Normalization and the Question of Prisoners Access to Digital Commons Technology.” Nordic Journal of Human Rights 30, no. 4 (2012): 454–82.

Toch, Hans. Organizational Change through Individual Empowerment: Applying Social Science in Prisons and Policing. Washington: American Psychological Association, 2014.

Westervelt, Sandra D., and Kimberly J. Cook. Life after Death Row: Exonerees’ Search for Community and Identity. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2012.

Whitman, James. Harsh Justice: Criminal Punishment and the Widening Divide between America and Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.


  • death sentences
  • life sentences
  • solitary confinement
  • torture
  • prisons
  • prison reform
  • dignity
  • rights

Published Papers (2 papers)

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p. 798-823
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Laws 2014, 3(4), 798-823; doi:10.3390/laws3040798
Received: 26 August 2014; in revised form: 22 November 2014 / Accepted: 24 November 2014 / Published: 15 December 2014
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(This article belongs to the Special Issue Rough Justice: Penal Sanctions, Human Dignity, and Human Rights)
p. 693-705
Laws 2014, 3(4), 693-705; doi:10.3390/laws3040693
Received: 26 June 2014; in revised form: 11 September 2014 / Accepted: 22 September 2014 / Published: 13 October 2014
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Last update: 23 April 2014

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