AmbulantSanctionsIn November 2014, the Center for the Study of Democracy, jointly with Droit au Droit (Belgium), University of Applied Sciences and Arts – Dortmund (Germany), Observatory on the Penal System and Human Rights (Spain) and Law Institute of Lithuania (Lithuania) published the study "Ambulant sanction as an alternative to imprisonment in the European Union?".

The issue of imprisonment vs. alternative penalties has been debated in various European countries during the last decades, and ambulant sanctions have been heavily on the rise. Community sentences and other alternatives to imprisonment are regarded as modern instruments for the rehabilitation of offenders. They are considered to solve the problem of overcrowding, which many prisons are constantly confronted with, and to fulfil the purposes of sanctioning in a more humane and oftentimes more cost‐saving way. Against this backdrop, it seems evident to look for promising ambulant alternatives in one country and recommend transferring it to others.

The study examines the scope of application of penalties without deprivation of liberty as compared to imprisonment and identifies promising practices of alternative criminal sanctioning in Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Spain and Lithuania. Furthermore, there are exemplary references to ambulant sanctions in the researched countries.

This publication adds value to the both theoretical and practical aspects of the research in the field of penal policy application. It can serve as a basis and simultaneously as a source of ideas for further research work that can be useful to both academics and policymakers throughout the EU.

This study is a part of the “Re‐Socialisation of Offenders in the European Union: Enhancing the Role of the Civil Society” project, implemented with the support of the European Commission, Directorate‐General Justice. It aims at improving the situation in prisons and the re-socialization of offenders by exploring three aspects – promoting  the broader use of alternatives to imprisonment; improving the situation of specific groups of vulnerable inmates; and designing an instrument for regular prison monitoring.




  • Christine M. Graebsch, University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Dortmund, Germany
  • Sven-U. Burkhardt, University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Dortmund, Germany

Country reports, serving as a basis for this study, were prepared by:

  • Nicola Giovannini, Malena Zingoni, Droit au Droit, Belgium;
  • Dimitar Markov, Maria Doichinova, Center for the Study of Democracy, Bulgaria;
  • Christine M. Graebsch, Sven-U. Burkhardt, Martin von Borstel, Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts, Germany;
  • Renata Giedrytė, Simonas Nikartas, Gytis Andrulionis, Law Institute of Lithuania, Lithuania;
  • Alejandro Forero Cuéllar, María Celeste Tortosa, Iñaki Rivera Beiras, Josep M. García-Borés, Rodrigo Chaverra, Tamara Fernández, Natalia Giraldo, Belén Permuy, Carla Trillas, Observatory on the Penal System and Human Rights with the University of Barcelona, Spain.

The publication can be retrieved in full text here:



This publication is also available in French and Lithuanian