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Articles describing and discussing Belgium's effort to create 'restorative prisons.'

Van Droogenbroeck, Bram. Victim offender mediation in severe crimes in Belgium: "What victims need and offenders can offer."
[M]ediation is also carried out in prison when the punishment is being served. In 2000 the Minister of Justice decided that restorative justice practices should be used in prisons. Since November 2000 restorative justice advisers have been working in almost every Belgian prison and one of their tasks has been to facilitate communication between victims and offenders. Mediation was first used in prisons in 2001 for convicted offenders and their victims.Mediation sessions were located outside the prison system in order to keep in line with the principles of restorative justice. Mediation started on an experimental basis; the inmates of three prisons and all the victims in the Flemish part of Belgium were offered the possibility to join a mediation programme. We did not want to discriminate the victims whose offender was in another prison. Since the Act on Victim Offender Mediation each party involved in a crime can ask for mediation. (excerpt)
Biermans, Nadia. Restorative justice and the prison system
For about two years now, Nadia Biermans, along with others, has been trying to apply restorative justice ideas and practices in Flemish prisons. Based on her experiences, in this paper she raises some questions and makes certain observations about restorative justice in the prison system. She begins by explaining how restorative justice in Belgian prisons began and how it is organized. This leads to discussion of the question of whether restorative justice has a place in prison, the issue of educating and persuading the wider public about restorative justice, and successful ingredients for introducing restorative justice in prisons.
Daelemans, Ann. Guiding the Change Process in Belgian Prisons: Towards a Restorative Prison Policy.
The presentation will deal with the implementation of restorative justice in the Belgian prison system. In 2000, the position of the restorative justice consultant was created in order to realise a ‘restorative detention’. RJ-consultants are working within the prison walls and are employees of the Federal Department of Justice. In their mission of guiding the change process towards a restorative prison policy, they have an advisory role towards the prison governor. (excerpt)
van Garse, Leo. Mediation in a Detention Context: Moralisation or Participation?
This article discusses the author’s development of mediation processes between victim and offenders in Belgium. The focus of the mediation is during the criminal justice process, particularly the punishment phase. In 2005, Belgium passed an act making mediation a part of the Code of Criminal Procedure, and mediation was introduced to address the problem of overpopulated prisons. One proposal was “restorative detention” where civil servants would work in prisons to counsel prison personnel on how to promote a restorative environment. The main goal is reinforcing prisoners to think about the harm they have caused and how they can mend that harm. The final section of the article discusses the author’s findings from employing mediation and restorative justice frameworks in Belgium prisons.
Verstraete, Anneli and Inge Vandeurzen and Hilde Verhoeven. Introducing restorative justice in Belgian prisons
The authors describe a pilot project in Belgium with restorative purposes: the aim of the project is to enable prisoners to take responsibility for their acts and address the conflict between them and their victims. Hence, the project focuses on changing the prison mentality, or the prevailing prison culture. The authors summarize recent changes in society and in criminological theory and practice that provided the background for the project, and they highlight key characteristics of the project.
. Restorative justice in Belgian prisons: the results of an empirical research.
Justice – when spelled with a capital ‘J’ – should be discursive [31] and based on equal respect ([40]: 206, 210) allowing a plurality of voices within the discourse. Particularly in the present research, this thread of pluralism is important. Prisoners’ voices have rarely been heard. Yet, if we wish to be true to the principle that restorative justice is discursive, it follows that the discourse is not complete without also accommodating their voices. To date, little research attention has been paid to the inner motivations of imprisoned offenders for willing to participate in restorative justice initiatives, as well as to their perceptions about their relationships with the victim and the community and the impact of religion on them. Hence, the present empirical study, conducted in several prisons across Belgium, endeavours to shed light on these aspects that have been theoretically overlooked, providing valuable information at policy-level about the design of future restorative justice programmes. (author's abstract)
Marien, Karolien. Restorative justice in Belgian prisons.
In 2000 the positive evaluation of this research led to the decision of the federal government that all Belgian prisons should evolve towards a restorative justice-oriented detention system. In order to guide this process of change one restorative justice adviser was appointed in each prison. An important remark here is that the size of the prison was not taken into account. Small prisons (with for example only 60 or 100 inmates) as well as bigger ones (with a few hundreds of inmates) all got one adviser. The reason for this was that the advisers were hired to work at the management level of the prison. They were supposed to work at the policy level of the prison, their task not being to work individually with inmates. The restorative justice advisers started working at the end of 2000. A circular letter of 4 October 2000 set up the framework within which the task had to be developed and which described, amongst others, the role of the restorative justice advisers. (excerpt)
Biermans, Nadia And d'Hoop, Marie Nathalie. Development of Belgian Prisons into a Restorative Perspective
Biermans and d’Hoop explore in this paper the development of a restorative approach in the Belgian prison system.

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