Critical Criminology

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 313–338 | Cite as

The Roma in Bulgaria’ s Criminal Justice System: From Ethnic Profiling to Imprisonment

  • Philip Gounev
  • Tihomir Bezlov


This paper examines the use of ethnic-specific crime data by law enforcement authorities as an instrument to formulate policies. The focus is on Bulgaria – one of the few East European countries whose criminal justice system keeps data on ethnicity – and the country’s Roma population. During the 1990s, Bulgaria’ s deep economic and social crisis impacted significantly on Bulgaria’ s Roma minority and, arguably, led to an increase in crime rates amongst the Roma. To date, however, the Bulgarian government has failed to adequately address this situation. The main argument that this paper puts forward is that over-policing of the Roma minority is a consequence of lack of adequate data on the Roma’ s involvement in crime, coupled with a crime-fighting strategy that is largely based on ethnic prejudice. As a result, a disproportionate number of Roma end-up in prisons or in long-term detention. Former inmates, in turn, influence their communities and establish a ‘revolving cycle’ of crime and social marginalisation, which is manifested in an increasing critical mass of the Roma male population in the criminal justice system.


European Union Criminal Justice Criminal Justice System Critical Criminology Crime Data 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alpha Research (2002). State of society: A nationally representative survey. Alpha Research:Sofia p.49Google Scholar
  2. Amnesty International (1993). Bulgaria: Torture and ill-treatment of Roma. Amnesty International:LondonGoogle Scholar
  3. Amnesty International (1994), Bulgaria; Turning a blind eye to racism. Amnesty International:LondonGoogle Scholar
  4. Analytical Creative Group (1998). Analysis of Crime in Bulgaria during 1993–1997 Period: Crime of the Roma Ethnic Group: Short Criminological Survey. Center for Marketing and Social Studies:SofiaGoogle Scholar
  5. Beck, A. (1999). Prisoners in 1999. Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin. U.S. Department of Justice, NCJ 183476Google Scholar
  6. Bezlov T., Gounev P. (2005). Crime Trends in Bulgaria: Police Statistics and Victimization Surveys. Center for the Study of Democracy:SofiaGoogle Scholar
  7. Bezlov T., Gounev P., Hristov H. (2006). Crime Trends in Bulgaria 2000–2005, Center for the Study of Democracy:SofiaGoogle Scholar
  8. Bishop D., Frazier C. (1984). The effects of gender on charge reduction. The Sociological Quarterly 25:385–396CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bosworth, M. (2004). Theorizing race and imprisonment: Towards a new penality. Critical Criminology 12: 221–242, at 225Google Scholar
  10. Bowling B., Phillips C. (2002a). Racism, Crime and Justice. Longman,:London p. 128–129Google Scholar
  11. Bowling B. and Phillips C. (2002b) Racism, Ethnicity, Crime, and Criminal Justice. In M. Maguire, R. Morgan, and R. Reiner (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Criminology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 579–619Google Scholar
  12. Brown I., Hullen R. (1992) A study of sentencing in the leeds magistrates’ courts. British Journal of Criminology 32, (1), 41–53Google Scholar
  13. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (1998). Human Rights in Bulgaria in 1997, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee:SofiaGoogle Scholar
  14. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (2002). Bulgaria’ s Prisons, Sofia: Bulgarian Helsinki Committee:SofiaGoogle Scholar
  15. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (2003). Human Rights in Bulgaria in 2002, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee:SofiaGoogle Scholar
  16. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (2004). Human Rights in Bulgaria in 2003, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee:SofiaGoogle Scholar
  17. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (2005). Human Rights in Bulgaria in 2004, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee:SofiaGoogle Scholar
  18. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (2006a). Five Years Later: The Non-Governmental Projects for Desegregation of Roma Education in Bulgaria, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee:SofiaGoogle Scholar
  19. Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (2006b). Human Rights in Bulgaria in 2005, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee:SofiaGoogle Scholar
  20. Dimova L. et al. (2003). Roma on the Job Market and in the Social Security System: The New Challenges. ASA:SofiaGoogle Scholar
  21. Economist Intelligence Unit Country Data[0], online database www.eiu.comGoogle Scholar
  22. European Commission (2004). The Situation of Roma in an Enlarged European Union, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities:LuxembourgGoogle Scholar
  23. Farrell R., Swigert V. (1986). Adjudication in homicide: An interpretive analysis of the effects of defendant and victim social characteristics. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 23:349–369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fitzgerald M. (1993). Ethnic Minorities in the Criminal Justice System, Home Office:LondonGoogle Scholar
  25. Free M. (2001). Racial bias and the American criminal justice system: Race and pre-sentencing revisited, Critical Criminology 10:195–223CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Foote C. (1959). The bail system and equal justice Federal Probation 23:43–48Google Scholar
  27. Hood R. (1992) Race and Sentencing. Clarendon Press:OxfordGoogle Scholar
  28. Home Office (2000). Statistics on Race and Criminal Justice System 2000: A Home Office Publication under Section 95 of the Criminal Justice Act 1991. Home Office:LondonGoogle Scholar
  29. Human Rights Watch (1991). Destroying Ethnic Identity: The Gypsies of Bulgaria. Human Rights Watch:New YorkGoogle Scholar
  30. Interviews with Police Officers (July 2005). unpublishedGoogle Scholar
  31. Interview with a police official in National Police Service Directorate (04/11/2005). SofiaGoogle Scholar
  32. Interviews with judges Evgeni Georgiev and Ivailo Majurov (June–July 2005). SofiaGoogle Scholar
  33. Lamberth, J. (1999). Driving While Black: A Statistician Proves that Prejudice Still Rules the Road. Washington Post, 08/16, 1999, p. 3Google Scholar
  34. Ministry of Labor and Social Policy (2004). Program for Social Integration of the Roma by Providing Equal Chances for Access to the Labor Market and by Decreasing the Dependency on Social Assistance. Sofia:Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, 12–52Google Scholar
  35. Ministry of Interior (1997). Social Changes and the Criminogenic Situation in Regions with Traditionally Low Crime Rate. quoted in Analytical Creative Group (1998) Analysis of Crime in Bulgaria during 1993–1997 Period: Crime of the Gypsy Ethnic Group: Short Criminological Survey. Sofia: Center for Marketing and Social StudiesGoogle Scholar
  36. Ministry of Interior, (01/08/2002). Memorandum of the National Police Directorate: Regarding Specific Elements of the Situation Regarding the Roma Population, unpublishedGoogle Scholar
  37. Ministry of Interior (08/10/2004). Regarding more Specific Elements of the Situation Regarding the Roma Population, unpublishedGoogle Scholar
  38. Mhlanga B. (1999). Race and Crown Prosecution Service Decisions. The Stationery Office:LondonGoogle Scholar
  39. Monitor Daily (12/14/2005)Google Scholar
  40. Murray C. (1984). Losing Ground, Basic Books:New YorkGoogle Scholar
  41. Murray C. (1990). The Emerging British Underclass, London: Institute of Economic AffairsGoogle Scholar
  42. National Statistics Institute (2005a). Crime and Sentenced Individuals. NSI:SofiaGoogle Scholar
  43. National Statistics Institute (2005b). Statistical Yearbook. NSI:SofiaGoogle Scholar
  44. New York Attorney General (1999) New York City Police. “Stop and Frisk” Practices: A Report to the People of New York From the Office of the Attorney General. New York: New York Attorney General, at 95Google Scholar
  45. Parenti C. (2000). Lockdown America, Verso:LondonGoogle Scholar
  46. Patterson E. and Lynch M. (1992). Bias in Formalized Bail Procedures. In M. Lynch andE. Patterson (eds.), Race and Criminal Justice. Albany, NY: Harrow and Heston, pp. 36–53Google Scholar
  47. Phillips C., Brown D. (1998). Entry into the Criminal Justice System: a Survey of Police Arrests and Their Outcomes. Home Office Research Study No. 185, Home Office:LondonGoogle Scholar
  48. Ringold D., Orensten M.,Wilkens E. (2003). Roma in an Expanding Europe: Breaking the Poverty Cycle, conference edition. World Bank: WashingtonGoogle Scholar
  49. Spohn C., Holleran D. (2000). The imprisonment penalty paid by young, unemployed black and hispanic male offenders Criminology 38:281–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. United Nations Development Program (2002). Avoiding the Dependency Trap. Sofia: UNDP BulgariaGoogle Scholar
  51. U.S. Customs Service (1998). Personal Searches of Air Passengers Results: Positive and Negative. Washington DC, 1998, at 1Google Scholar
  52. Vitosha Research (2004). Transcript of focus groups (unpublished)Google Scholar
  53. Vitosha Research (2005). Relations between the Police and Minorities, household survey (unpublished)Google Scholar
  54. World Bank (2001). Bulgarian Integrated Household Survey. Washington: World Bank, Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Center for the Study of Democracy Sofia Bulgaria

Personalised recommendations