Dirk van Zyl SmitGlobal Visiting Professor Dirk van Zyl Smit, a prolific penological scholar, co-wrote the new Handbook on the International Transfer of Sentenced Persons, to be launched officially this month by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The handbook is one of a number of tools developed by that office as resources for countries implementing the rule of law and reforming their criminal justice systems.

The book, drafted by van Zyl Smit, a professor of comparative and international penal law at the University of Nottingham, and his Nottingham colleague Róisín Mulgrew, describes the instruments and procedures involved in transferring individuals convicted in one nation to another nation to serve their sentences, and stresses fairness and human rights compliance issues. The handbook is the first such comprehensive English-language guide published in many years.  It will have its official release at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime in mid-October in Vienna.

At the academic year’s first Hoffinger Criminal Justice Forum on September 24, van Zyl Smit presented a lecture, “Life Imprisonment Across Jurisdictions and Continents.” He freely acknowledged his views on the topic from the outset: "While I accept that life sentences are probably going to be with us for the foreseeable future, I believe that there is a strong case on simple offense proportionality grounds for limiting life sentences to only the most serious crimes. More controversially, where life sentences are imposed I argue that there is an equally compelling case for ensuring that all those who are subject to them have a reasonable prospect for release." Van Zyl Smit went beyond policy questions to examine how jurisprudential developments regarding life imprisonment have been affected by international exchanges.

Watch the full video of the Hoffinger Criminal Justice Forum (1 hr, 31 min):