Alvaro Pires

Canada Research Chair in Legal Traditions and Penal Rationality

Tier 1 - 2017-11-01
Renewed: 2016-02-01
University of Ottawa
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

613-562-5800 extension 1865

Research involves

Studying the persistence of harsh sentencing (e.g., death sentences, life sentences) and widespread imposition of jail sentences in western societies.

Research relevance

This research aims to transform Western criminal justice systems by placing human rights at the forefront of sentencing.

Transforming the Criminal Justice System

Beginning in the second half of the 18th century, a transformation began to occur in the justice systems of western societies as harsh punishments (in the form of long sentences or death sentences) started to be described as “humane” and “compatible with fundamental rights.” The severity of a sentence was no longer gauged by the intensity of physical punishment, but by the length of the sentence. From this point on, legally enforced punishments have mainly been measured in time.

Dr. Alvaro Pires, Canada Research Chair in Legal Traditions and Penal Rationality, is a leading specialist in criminal justice systems in modern societies. His ideas have been borrowed, researched, and further developed by numerous authors around the world.

Based on historical and contemporary research, Pires and his team have developed a theory about the influence of rationality on the criminal justice system in the West. The focus of their research is the relationship between human rights and sentencing in criminal cases.

The aim of their research is to transform the criminal justice system to make sentencing more concerned with human rights. Pires also hopes to clarify the paradox between human rights issues and lengthy prison sentences, and to better understand why prison sentences are still widely imposed despite what he views as the long-recognized failure of this practice.