Anttila, S. Inkeri (1916—)

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Anttila, S. Inkeri (1916—)

Finnish criminologist and minister of justice, recognized internationally for her work in professionalizing the study of victimology. Pronunciation: SIL-Vee EN-ker-EE AN-til-AH. Born Sylvi Inkeri Metsämies on November 29, 1916 (some sources cite the 21st or 26th), at Viipuri, Finland; daughter of Veini Ireneus (a lawyer) and Sylvi Airio Metsämies; graduated University of Helsinki, Cand. Jur., 1936, LL.D. in criminal law, 1946, Lic. Sociology, 1954, D. Political Sciences (honorary), 1976; married Sulo Anttila, in December 1934; children: Veini, Liisa, and Mirja.

Qualified for the bar in Finland (1942); made director of the Training School for Prison Service (1949–61); appointed professor of criminal law, University of Helsinki Law School (1961–); made director, Finland's Institute of Criminology in the Ministry of Justice (1963–74); appointed director, Research Institute of Legal Policy, 1974; appointed minister of justice (1975–); elected president, Fifth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders (1975); named chair of the board of the International Center of Comparative Criminology (1977).

Selected publications:

"Loukatun suostumus, oikeudenvastaisuuden poistavana perusteena" (thesis, University of Helsinki, 1946); with Risto Jaakola, Unrecorded Criminality in Finland (Helsinki: 1966); with Patrik Tornudd, Kriminologi i kriminalpolitiskt perspektiv (Stockholm: Norstedt, 1973); "Victimology: A New Territory in Criminology," Scandinavian Studies in Criminology (Vol. 5, 1974, pp. 3–7); with Olavi Heinonen, Pekka Koskinen and Raimo Lahti, Rikollisuus ongelmana: kriminaalipolitiikan perusteet (Helsinki: Tammi, 1974); Incarceration for Crimes Never Committed (Helsinki: Research Institute of Legal Policy, 1975); with Olavi Heinonen, Rikosoikeus ja kriminaalipolitiikka (Helsinki: Tammi, 1977); Papers on Crime Control, 1977–1978 (Helsinki: Research Institute of Legal Policy, 1978); Women in the Criminal Justice System (Helsinki: Research Institute of Legal Policy, 1979); with Patrik Tornudd, Kriminologia ja kriminaalipolitiikka (Porvoo: Soder-strom,

1983); with Patrik Tornudd, Rikollisuus ja kriminaalipolitiikka: Uudessa Suomessa vuosina 1980–1984 julkaistuista kirjoituksista (Helsinki: Lakimiesliiton kustannus, 1986).

In a long and distinguished career, Inkeri Anttila has pioneered a vastly broadened approach to the study of crime and its victims, ranging from the prey of a purse-snatching to Haitian boat people seeking asylum. Through the Finnish lawyer and criminologist's deep analysis and balanced approach, incorporating the issues that surround both the perpetrators of crime and their victims—including the criminal who may be wronged by the judicial system itself—she has raised victimology to the level of a genuine sociological discipline, enhanced her profession, and pioneered judicial reforms with an international reach.

Sylvi Inkeri Metsämies came of age professionally at a time and place when political events across Europe left all crimes subject to scrutiny in terms of the involvement of their participants. She was born on November 29, 1916 (some sources give the 21st or 26th), at Viipuri, Finland, the daughter of Veini Ireneus and Sylvi Airio Metsämies. Not much has been documented about Inkeri's childhood, but the fact that her father was a lawyer likely helped mold her intellectual curiosity in legal issues. Like many Finns, she became fluent in Finnish, Swedish, and English, and, after graduating from high school in 1933, she attended the University of Helsinki. In 1936, she received a degree in criminal law, two years after her marriage to Sulo Anttila on December 8, 1934 (some sources give the date as December 12); they were to have three children: Veini, Liisa, and Mirja.

Juggling family and career, Anttila passed the bar in 1942, while World War II had mainland Europe to the south of Finland in turmoil. In 1946, she earned her doctorate in criminal law; her thesis was an analysis of justification and consent in the legal system, a subject that may have been encouraged by the experience of Finland's military cooperation with German forces to reclaim territory seized by the Russians, and by the Russo-Finnish War, which disrupted her country up to February 1947. Anttila's postgraduate training was to last into the 1950s, when she was licensed as an authority in sociology. By then, she worked in a criminal court, and she served as director of the Training School for Prison Service from 1949–61. In 1949, she became a docent of criminal law at the University of Helsinki Law School, and was a full professor beginning in 1961. From 1953–56, she was president of the Finnish Federation of University Women.

Before Anttila, the work of most criminologists focused on offenders, not victims. "Victimology" is a term coined in 1949 by American psychiatrist Frederick Wertham, who insisted on the need for sociologists to take a scientific approach to the study of victims of crime. This followed the appearance of The Criminal and His Victim: Studies in the Socio-biology of Crime, by Hans Von Hentig, in 1948. In what was to become a classic text, the author criticized sociologists for limiting their analysis to the offenders and viewing crime victims merely as passive participants. Von Hentig's suggestion that knowledge of the social background of a victim and time and place of a crime might determine that the victim had actually initiated the crime, would become a major step in encouraging further study of the dynamics of criminal-victim interaction.

Inspired by these seminal works, Anttila set about exploring new issues and establishing new paradigms of research for the study of victimology, and wrote prolifically in her new field. During the 1960s, she chaired Finnish government commissions on juvenile crime (1965–66), abortion (1965–68), and women's rights (1966–70), and directed a committee on sexual crimes that lasted from 1966–69, while she also belonged to groups that sought to improve penal policy, eliminate censorship, and secure expanded social rights. In 1963, she was named director of Finland's Institute of Criminology in the Ministry of Justice, and served there until 1974, when she became director of the Research Institute of Legal Policy in Helsinki. The following year, she was the first woman to be named Finland's minister of justice, a cabinet-level position in the government.

In 1974, Anttila produced what was perhaps her most ground-breaking article, "Victimology: A New Territory in Criminology," published in Scandinavian Studies in Criminology. Anttila's position was to stress the criminal-victim relationship as an important factor in crime, but she was vocally critical of books such as Patterns of Forcible Rape, by M. Amir, published in 1971, which stated that 19% of "victims of assault have no one except themselves to blame if they deliberately walk in dark alleys after dark." Rather than blaming the victim, she defined victimology as the scientific study of victims and their problems, regardless of their stature as individuals, groups, or societies, and outlined the important issues to be explored within the new discipline.

Anttila's work by this time had led to international recognition in the field of criminology. She sat on the board of directors of the International Association of Penal Law and was vice-president of the International Penal and Penitentiary Foundation. She chaired the Scandinavian Research Council on Criminology from 1970–74, and served at the same time as vice-president of the United Nations Committee on Crime Prevention and Control; in 1975, she was president of the Fifth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and Treatment of Offenders. She also was director of the International Criminological Institute in Montreal.

By 1977, Anttila was on the council of the International Association of Criminology and chair of the board of the International Center of Comparative Criminology. During that decade, she was active in the National Research Council's social sciences section and a member of the Association Internationale de Droit Penale and the Scientific Council of International Society for Criminology.

Primary victimology research consisted of victim surveys that included the tabulation of statistics estimating what percentage of crimes were reported to police, evaluations of the legal officials' perception of the crime, and their accountability to the victim. As a direct result of Anttila's work, research was expanded to incorporate much more information about the victim. In response to these liberal analyses, a victims' movement emerged in the late 1960s, maturing in the 1970s. It attempted to encourage the criminal justice system to become more victim-oriented.

Recognizing crime prevention as the criminologist's ultimate long-term goal, Anttila kept her sights on the lesser, but perhaps more easily achievable, goal of keeping the consequences of a crime to a minimum for the victims. She was interested in the impact of a crime on the victim's life and how the consequences could be alleviated, while maintaining a balance between the rights of victims and their offenders. She also stressed that crime victims suffered not only from the actions of the criminal but the justice system itself, due to delays in prosecution. She focused on more effective sentencing of offenders through a system of compensations and fines that were appropriate and fair in an effort to reduce recurrence. She challenged courts to reassess their conventional methods of determining penalties according to the severity of offenses, and sought protection for victims of crime from a judicial process that could sometimes seem unsympathetic.

Turning from the sociological to the psychological, Anttila examined the causes of victimization, including assessments of the likelihood of an individual to be victimized or to instigate crimes, hoping thereby to arrive at a means of crime prevention. She researched the fact that victimization could transform victims into offenders, recognizing the pattern among some offenders who responded to the experience of being crime victims by turning to crime or were encouraged toward criminal acts by excessive punishment within the justice system.

Anttila also expanded the perspective on victimization beyond the traditional legal system, recognizing that groups could be vulnerable to becoming victims of governments and organizations. A well-known example is found among the Haitian boat people seeking asylum through migration to the United States. When such groups require aid from emergency mental and health services, negligence or deprivation of such services might well be construed as a form of national victimization.

One aspect of Anttila's research was to assess the relevance of bystanders to the victim of a crime. In examining whether bystanders offered assistance to a victim, she defined the occurrence of "hidden victimization," when onlookers proved unwilling to come to the rescue of a victim. On the other hand, she proposed that bystanders who risked breaking laws to protect a victim should be considered for immunity from prosecution and even compensation.

Writing alone and with colleagues, Anttila eventually produced 80 articles and ten books about criminal law and policy, criminology, and crime control, often sponsored by the Research Institute of Legal Policy. Her Unrecorded Criminality in Finland, published in 1966, was an examination of statistics related to unreported crimes. With Patrik Tornudd, she examined criminal justice administration with specific Finnish examples in Kriminologi i kriminalpolitiskt perspektiv (1973), Kriminologia ja kriminaalipolitiikka (1983), and Rikollisuus ja kriminaalipolitiikka: Uudessa Suomessa vuosina 1980–1984 julkaistuista kirjoituksista (1986).

Anttila considered preventive detention techniques in Incarceration for Crimes Never Committed (1975) and crime prevention in Papers on Crime Control, 1977–1978 (1978). With Olavi Heinonen , she covered her views on criminal law in Rikosoikeus ja kriminaalipolitiikka (1977); one particularly interesting treatise was Women in the Criminal Justice System (1979) in which she discussed both the careers and roles of women lawyers and correctional personnel and the sexual discrimination directed against women in these professions.

In September 1983, the First International Symposium in Victimology, held in Jerusalem, brought the study international recognition as a scholarly field. Anttila was a featured speaker discussing new perspectives in victim-centered research and stating the limits and biases that should be considered when studying crime from the victim's perspective.

Concerned with having victimology taken seriously by the intellectual community, Anttila emphasized the lessons of her own research, namely that victims were a source of information otherwise unavailable that could provide insight to the characteristics of offenders and their crimes. She told her audience that such information was therefore crucial, even when an offender was never caught.

Previously, as she explained, offenders had been at the center of investigations, with criminologists seeking causes such as mental illness and character defects to explain their criminal motivations; but to balance criminological research, she urged that victims be asked the same questions. She also protested against stereotypes of offenders as evil deviants and victims portrayed either as innocent law-abiding citizens or guilty crime-precipitants, voicing theories then emerging among some criminologists about stores that tempted thieves by displaying valuables or tourists who became lost in dark alleys and thus invited muggers to take their wallets. Anttila's aim was to eliminate all such stereotypes by presenting a new perspective of both victims and criminals that limited neither category to certain groups or environments. She also suggested that victim-centered research could provide methods for crime control that were an improvement over the previously held view that the risk of capture and threat of punishment could be sufficient to thwart many criminals.

Declaring that all victims could not be considered innocent and unsuspecting, Anttila proposed that some offenders could perhaps be impeded through the alteration of victim behavior. When a potential victim could be identified, for instance, special locks and surveillance might prevent the occurrence of a crime; and as sociology of crime became victim-centered, the emphasis might shift more toward the responsibility of victims for the prevention of crime than the punishment of offenders by the justice system. In determining the severity of offenses, Anttila stressed that the victim should have some input, noting that middle-class administrators often measured offenses according to a value system different from that of a victim from lower socioeconomic classes, who should be allowed to participate in evaluating compensation for loss.

At the same time, Anttila warned against the potential weaknesses of victim-centered research that could become preoccupied with the individual characteristics of a particular victim or offender while lacking data for broader analysis. She encouraged a shift of emphasis toward understanding aspects of the criminal situation and the criminal-victim interaction before any extensive alteration of legal policy-making.

She warned criminologists not to overemphasize research of criminal behavior where the victim was easily identified—as in cases of assault, larceny, and rape—at the expense of crimes where victims were obscure. In the case of consenting minors, for instance, victims may not consider themselves victimized; and in the case of institutional or governmental policies, entire communities might be considered victims, while criminals might be viewed as victims of society and the justice system. She noted the dangers in an ideology among some criminologists that embraces the belief that crime is an unavoidable aspect of society and criminals are necessary to test legal limits, perpetuating both the acceptance of criminals and the need for increased victimology research in an ongoing cycle.

Anttila concluded that "these observation may, I hope, help us to see the limits of victim-centered research. I have, in particular, wanted to point to the dangers of an atomistic mode of thinking, where sometimes only the offenders, sometimes only the victims are the main targets of interest." She encouraged her peers to expand victim-centered research but advised that "these efforts will not prevent us from seeing the crime problem in its entirety and in all its complexity."

A citizen of Helsinki, where she served on the Helsinki City Council from 1974–76, Inkeri Anttila has been honored for criminological research since 1954, when she was decorated with the Order of the White Cross of Finland; in 1961, she received a Badge of Merit in prison service in Finland, and six years later she was awarded her country's Order of Commander of Lions of Finland. The Emil Aaltonen Foundation recognized her in 1972, and she received an honorary degree in political science from her alma mater in 1976. The study of victims remains her number one priority.


"Anttila, Mrs. Sylvi Inkeri," in Who's Who in the United Nations and Related Agencies. NY: Arno Press, 1975.

"Anttila, S. Inkeri," in Who's Who in the World. Chicago, IL: Marquis, 1979.

Drapkin, Israel, and Emilio Viano, eds. Victimology: A New Focus. 5 vols. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1973.

suggested reading:

Joutsen, M. The Role of the Victim of Crime in European Criminal Justice Systems: A Crossnational Study of the Role of the Victim. Helsinki, 1987.

Maguire, Mike, Rod Morgan, and Robert Reiner, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Criminology. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994.

Walklate, S. Victimology. London, 1989.

Elizabeth D. Schafer , Ph.D., freelance writer on the history of technology and science, Loachapoka, Alabama