....The development of restorative justice applications in Belgium is amazing. The federal government funds much of this work in a variety of criminal justice settings. Since 1994, federal regulations have governed what is called “penal mediation”, which is facilitated through prosecutors’ offices. Those mediations occur in the midst of the criminal court proceedings and can impact how the prosecutor decides to proceed.

Since 2001, Belgium has offered victim-offender mediations after offenders have been incarcerated. In 2005, the federal law provided that every person who has a direct interest can request mediation at any stage of the criminal procedure.” Art. 553, sex. 2 of the Belgian Code of Criminal Procedure. Like most places, any mediation that occurs needs to be voluntarily agreed to by all parties. Finally in 2006 the Belgian Youth Protection Act recognized and encouraged mediation and sentencing circles in juvenile cases.

Of course, despite much legislative recognition, many in the system have not “bought into” the restorative approach of addressing the harm caused by crime. The University of Leuven has provided incredible research support analyzing the implementation and outcomes of these various processes in Belgium as well as in the greater European community. When restorative justice processes are done well, the outcomes are almost always favorable.

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