Source: (2004) Corrections Today. December: 72-75.

From November 2000 through October 2003, five youth courts in the Flemish section of Belgium ran a pilot program exploring the use of restorative conferencing with serious youth offenders. The conferencing program relied on the New Zealand family group conferencing model, which seemed appropriate for more serious offenders. The data collected during the pilot programs are presented here. The results indicate that restorative conferencing can be implemented within the existing Belgium juvenile justice system and that judges, advocates, police officers, and social workers are satisfied with the use of the New Zealand model. Very high rates of satisfaction were also noted among victims, offenders, and their parents. Recidivism may also have been reduced as a result of the conferencing program, with a re-conviction rate of only 22 percent for juveniles who participated in the conferences compared to the 58 percent reconviction rate among juveniles who did not participate in the program. The success of the conferencing program in Belgium opens the door to a feasible approach for reducing the number of juveniles housed in detention facilities. Abstract courtesy of the National Criminal Justice Reference Service,