The Institute of Criminal Law Studies “Alimena” – ISPA, Interdepartmental Research Center, operates in various areas with research on various themes, from those which are purely juridical to those of a philosophical, criminological, psychological, sociological, political, and historical nature. The institute was established on proposal of both the Department of "Culture, Education, and Society" and the Department of "Business and Law" at the University of Calabria. After the favourable opinion of the Academic Senate and the deliberations of the Board of Directors, a rectoral decree established the Center and formalized its activation. Simultaneously, the Rector appointed Prof. Mario Caterini (associate professor of Criminal Law) as a Director, and the Scientific Council, composed by the Director, Anna Rovella (associate professor of Archival Bibliography and Librarianship), and Rocco Giurato (researcher of History of Political Institutions).

The name of the Center highlights the need to involve in a research project all the cultural and scientific areas that gravitate around punishment and more generally the opportunity to punish. Not only, therefore, the legal profiles, but also the criminological, pedagogical, philosophical, historical, psychological, political and sociological ones, in order to understand how far the need to punish can go if not supported by an adequate 'pedagogical' work of prevention. The general context in which the research moves is that of the criminal law culture to contribute to creating a model of justice consistent with the constitutional principles, essential for the democratic development of the country. The purpose is to promote a research – theoretical and applied – about the problems of the penal system and criminal policy, in an interdisciplinary perspective of "integrated science" attentive to the methods and results of the criminological study and to the contributions of the empirical social sciences, in particular pedagogy and psychology.

One of the objectives of the Center is to make available to scholars the impressive library heritage of the jurists Francesco (1836–1902), Bernardino (1861–1915) and Francesco (1898–1949) Alimena – illustrious scientists of criminal law and criminology –, located in the family palace in the historic center of Cosenza. In agreement with the heirs, the aim is to design and implement a system – such as cataloguing, digitalization, and digital preservation – capable of benefiting the scientific community in the widest possible way of this "cultural asset", probably unique since it counts almost 3000 volumes, that is most of the works published between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in criminal law and criminology, with a substantial comparative section, not to mention other thousands of books containing studies in history, philosophy, literature.

The main thematic area of the Center is related to the connection between criminal justice, civic information and education, as well as the condition of convicts and their social reintegration, aspiring to lay down the constitutional principles on criminal law among the essential topoi of a desirable pedagogy of citizenship.

Another area of research is the relationship between criminal paternalism, neuroscience, and the pedagogy of the so-called "gentle push", concerning the self-injurious will and the freedom to "make mistakes", related to the study of self-determination in a neuroscientific perspective and the possible regulatory options that the State has to counteract cognitive errors, such as the nudge strategies.

In these areas, the Center pursues the following operational objectives:

- to promote and carry out the necessary activity to develop the best multidisciplinary collaboration among scholars of the scientific community, promoting collaboration with researchers and teachers from other universities;

- to promote and carry out collaboration programs with national and international organizations in the fields of research and development of national, European and international culture;

- to promote the exchange of cultural resources and experiences with other qualified Italian and foreign study centers;

- to promote and implement studies and scientific discussions with other subjects operating in the same cultural fields;

- to stimulate the development and implementation of specific projects to be carried out in Calabria;

- to promote educational initiatives in the cultural fields involved, also open to professionals and institutions;

- to involve scholars, representatives of institutions or professions, both Italian and foreign, of proven authority, in teaching activities, with cycles of lessons or conferences;

- to promote cultural events, also in collaboration with other qualified subjects interested in education in the cultural areas of reference;

- to encourage a constant dialogue with the judiciary and the legal professions, organizing didactic modules of legal clinics;

- to promote, also through the collaboration and the enhancement of resources and organizations outside the University, the establishment of observatories and documentation centers in relation to applicational practices and the empirical collection of data and information;

- to promote, elaborate or contribute to the drafting of university or inter-university projects; to participate in projects promoted by public bodies, research organizations, local authorites, or private organizations also in the context of regional, national and European programs, in order to request funding directly or in partnership, or to apply to calls;

- to develop reform proposals to be submitted to the institutions and the scientific community;

- to promote, to make agreements, and to carry out any other activity and initiative compatible with the said general and specific purposes;

- to promote and publish works in synergy with publishers of recognized prestige in the scientific community.