Rasmus Wandall uses quantitative and qualitative methods from studies carried out in Denmark, to address the formal and informal norms and ideologies that are used to generate decisions to imprison. Focusing on the operations of the courtroom participants, his work investigates how court decision-making is organized to allow the sentencing procedure to be open to more than its formal legal framework, while at the same time keeping the sentencing within the boundaries of law and legal validity. The author uses the theory of law's operational closure, developed by Niklas Luhmann. The theory provides an advantageous point of departure to capture the close and subtle interactions between law's need for validity and for contextual openness in every legal operation - including court decision-making.
'This book is a significant contribution to the international literature on sentencing. Not only does it break new ground as an empirical study of sentencing behaviour in Scandinavia, but it also draws upon LuhmannÂ´s theoretical perspectives and places its insights within the framework of Anglo-American sentencing scholarship. The book contains a close analysis of the construction of sentencing decisions and a nuanced criminological assessment of the role of informal but nevertheless significant court practices - an assessment that carries through to the implications for offenders in lower socio-economic groups. I commend this book to all those interested in the theory and practice of sentencing.' Andrew Ashworth, University of Oxford, UK 'In this timely and excellent study on sentencing, Rasmus Wandall joins a growing number of empirical researchers who are finding Luhmann's idea of closed social systems to be a fruitful and insightful way of making sense of the complexities of modern society. Rasmus Wandall is able to show how courts manage to legitimate imprisonment by reference to the law's own internally-produced criteria of lawfulness and practical reasoning. In doing so, they systematically block out the devastating effects of politically-inspired policies on the lives of the most vulnerable members of society.' Michael King, University of Reading, UK '…there is no doubt that this work is a major contribution to sentencing scholarship. It significantly enhances our knowledge of sentence decision making and its comparative dimensions. As such, it should be read by all who have a serious interest in the subject. British Journal of Criminology