Ulla Viveka Bondeson

(July 10, 1937 – October 20, 2009)

Ulla Bondeson was one of the most internationally famous and renowned Scandinavian criminologists.  Her career spanned a half century, beginning in 1959 when she was employed at a Swedish Correctional Training School for young females.  Her experience in this institution inspired her first English-language publication on “Argot knowledge as an indicator of criminal socialization” (Bondeson, 1968).  She was appointed as a Lecturer in Sociology in the University of Lund, Sweden, in 1964, and became a Professor there in 1976.  She was then appointed Professor of Criminology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1980, and taught there until her retirement in 2007.

Ulla Bondeson’s most famous English-language publications were Prisoners in Prison Societies (Bondeson, 1989), Alternatives to Imprisonment (Bondeson, 1994), and Nordic Moral Climates (Bondeson, 2003).  These books present important and sophisticated empirical research projects.  For example, Prisoners in Prison Societies (based on Ulla’s doctoral dissertation) was a comparative study of 13 correctional institutions with a 10-year follow-up.  Some of her most important writings (and her full vita) were collected together in Crime, Punishment and Justice (Bondeson, 2007), which is a brilliant legacy.  Ulla was extremely concerned about the damaging effects of imprisonment.

Ulla Bondeson received many honors, including the Sellin-Glueck Award of the ASC in 1995.  Most recently in 2006, she became a Knight of the Dannebrog (the Danish flag), which is an extremely prestigious award conferred by the Queen of Denmark.  She held many important positions, including President of the Scandinavian Council on Criminology (1983-85), Vice-President of the Scientific Commission of the International Society of Criminology (1995-99) and of the International Society Of Criminology (2000-05), and she was a member of the Crime and Justice Steering Committee of the Campbell Collaboration (2000-07).  She was a Visiting Professor at several American universities, including Harvard, Yale, the University of Minnesota, UCLA, and the University of California at Berkeley and Santa Barbara.

Her diplomacy in bringing Western criminology to other nations was both warm and honest. Her first visit to Seoul in 1996 to help organize the 12th World Congress of Criminology came at a time of heightened tensions between North and South Korea, with much sabre-rattling from the North. As she sat down in the conference room of the President of the Korean Institute of Criminology (KIC), she looked out the window towards a forested mountain in the north. When she mentioned the threat of invasion, her American colleague pointed to the window and said “look—Tanks!” Her laughter broke all the tension, whereupon the KIC President quoted a popular Korean T-shirt logo of the era: “No Fear!” That night over many toasts of Korean spirits, Ulla and the KIC President exchanged many salutations to “No Fear.”

In 2000-05, she took on the difficult task of recruiting more ISC members from Africa, which was then (as now) under-represented in international criminology meetings. In two trips to Africa, she organized many opportunities to meet with scholars in our field, and to encourage membership in ISC and attendance at the World Congresses in Rio and Philadelphia. Her work helped to stimulate far greater African engagement at the 14th World Congress than at the 12th.

In an era when it was very difficult and unusual for female scholars to obtain university professorships, let alone win high office in international learned societies, Ulla Bondeson was a remarkable and very distinguished pioneering criminologist.  She was a highly intelligent, multilingual and very cultured person who also had a hearty laugh and a great sense of fun.  Her hospitality in her summer house was legendary.  With typical generosity, she left money to establish a fund for Nordic criminological research. Ulla will be greatly missed by all criminologists who had the pleasure and privilege of knowing her.

David P. Farrington and Lawrence W. Sherman

Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University



Bondeson, U. V. (1968)  Argot knowledge as an indicator of criminal socialization: A study of a training school for girls.  Scandinavian Studies in Criminology, 2, 73-107.

Bondeson, U. V. (1989).  Prisoners in Prison Societies.  New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

Bondeson, U. V. (1994)  Alternatives to Imprisonment.  Boulder, CO: Westview.

Bondeson, U. V. (2003)  Nordic Moral Climates.  New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

Bondeson, U. V. (2007)  Crime, Punishment and Justice.  Copenhagen, Denmark: DJOF.


Copyright 2016, Ulla V. Bondeson Stiftelsen.