Restorative justice discourses and practices in Belgium: from purity to hybridization

Mondelinge presentatie
2 september, 2016

Présenté à 44th Annual Conference of the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control, Braga, Portugal, 2 septembre 2016.

Restorative justice (RJ) programs have often been envisioned by scholars as a way to reduce penal policies that promote social exclusion and to resist expended state control and prison practices. Based on an extensive critical analysis of the various RJ discourses and practices having taken place in the penal field in Belgium since the 80’s, our contribution aims to highlight the way RJ takes part to a larger recomposition of the role of the State with respect to the criminal phenomenon in this country. Through this case study, will be emphasized how despite the options undertaken by several Belgian’s activists in the field of RJ in order to decrease social exclusion and stigmatization by penal agencies, RJ programs have been implemented in political frameworks that have led to an “hybridization” of various ideologies and practices. This “hybridization”, that can be documented at various levels of the penal realm, partly explains the success of the institutionalization of RJ practices but also deeply questions their possibilities to lead to the expectations of their proponents both quantitatively and qualitatively. Our contribution will insist on the contemporary social and political forces responsibles for these trends and will reflect on the way they could be countered.