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Victim-offender mediation in custodial settings. Outcome of an experiment carried out in several Belgian prisons.

Buonatesta, Antonio
June 4, 2015

Source: (2004) Papers presented at the Third Conference of the European Forum for Victim-Offender Mediation and Restorative Justice, ‘Restorative Justice in Europe: Where are we heading?’, Budapest, Hungary, 14-16 October. Downloaded 22 September 2005.

The purpose of this presentation is to highlight what are the main issues at stake in a mediation process at the
stage of the execution of a punishment sentence. This analysis stems from three years experiment carried out in
several French-speaking Belgian prisons by a non-profit organization named “MEDIANTE�?.
In 1998, the Belgian Federal Ministry of Justice started to finance a “National Pilot Project�? in order to promote
victim-offender mediation programmes alongside the penal procedure, generally before sentence.
“MEDIANTE�? was assigned to implement the project in the French-speaking Belgian judicial districts. This
project is called “Mediation after prosecution�?; it is still developing and is about to be regulated by law.
We have to precise that in Belgium, the only legal procedure related to victim-offender mediation is still
regulated by the law of 2/10/1994 on “penal mediation�?, which in fact is not a specific law on mediation. It
provides that the prosecutor can divert less severe criminal cases from prosecution if the offender fulfils one or
more conditions (training, therapy..). Reparation to the victims is just one of these conditions. In this context,
the national pilot project “Mediation after prosecution�? was a first step to make mediation available in more serious
criminal cases at a further stage of the procedure. So, in this program, the major issue at stake in the mediation
process is to achieve a compensation agreement that could be of useful impact on the sentence for both parties.
However, beyond the obvious interest of such an agreement, the project was based, from the outset, on the
following principle: mediation can be used successfully to manage the painful relation between an offender and
a victim involved in very serious crimes provided that it is proposed to the parties as a dialogue process
between them and does not directly aim at a reparation settlement or forgiveness attitudes. On these
grounds, we were in position to consider that mediation might be a relevant offer at all stages of the penal
procedure, including after sentence. (excerpt)


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