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About the project

Crime levels in Latin America have risen sharply over the past two decades. The reason is the growth and brutalization of drug trafficking, gangs, corruption, poverty, and loss of trust in the authorities that fail to control territories and provide basic welfare benefits. Politically the response to increased crime has been a wave of penal populism that has led to overcrowded and underfunded prisons.

Simultaneously, resilience and resistance towards both criminal organizations and oppressive penitentiary systems emerges from a multitude of places in Latin American societies, including in incarcerated populations and communities.

CRIMLA, headed by Professor of Criminology Sveinung Sandberg, explores the role that family, employment, culture and the state play in crime and punishment in the region. The main aim is to theorize and understand the criminal careers and life-course trajectories of Latin American prisoners. 

Themes are addressed through qualitative life-story interviews with prisoners in seven Latin American countries; Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Honduras and Mexico.

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Illustrated by Mauricio Rodríguez Sepulveda

Theoretical and methodological perspective

The project is rooted in both life-course criminology and narrative criminology, and combines a focus on life-courses with an interest in how these are conveyed and contribute to creating identities through individual life stories. Prison conditions as well as social life in prison are also important in the project. Combining criminological theory, with socio-economic, institutional and cultural conditions, the objective is to do research and theorize from the Global South, culminating in the development of a culturally sensitive life-course criminology.

We conduct extensive, repeat interviews with 400 people in prison, half of them are women. All participants are interviewed three times equaling about 1200 interviews. More than 20 researchers are involved. Repeat interviews are preferred because they allow for a close relationship to develop between researcher and participant and facilitate more details and nuances to emerge from the life-stories.  

The size of the CRIMLA qualitative data set makes it unique in the Latin American context. The data can be applied and developed to address a multitude of themes and research topics emerging from within this project and beyond.

See a short description of CRIMLA:

Leading Team


Sveinung Sandberg

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Professor at the Department of Criminology and Sociology of  Law, University of Oslo, Norway. Principal Investigator of CRIMLA. Email:


David Rodriguez Goyes

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Doctor in Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo. Researcher at the University of Oslo. Email: Website:


Gustavo Fondevila

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Professor of Law at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE), Mexico. Email:


Martín Hernán Di Marco

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Doctor in Social Sciences (Buenos Aires University). Researcher at the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo, Norway. Email:


Carolina Agoff

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Professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Email:

Advisory Board

Antonella Tiravessi (Argentina)

Alejandro Colanzi (Bolivia)

Fabiana Severi (Brazil)
Mauricio Dieter (Brazil)
Ricardo Lillo (Chile)

Astrid Liliana Sánchez Mejía (Colombia)

Luis Enrique Amaya (Honduras)

Corina Giacomello (Mexico)

Benedicte Bull (Norway)


The purpose of creating a network of local researchers was to achieve as much cultural sensitivity as possible throughout all the research process. 

If you click the different on spots on the map you will get an overview of the local researchers.


The Research Council of Norway (Norges forskningsråd): 324299

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