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How Restorative Justice is Able to Transcend the Prison Walls: A Discussion of the "Restorative Detention" Project (From Restorative Justice in Context: International Practice and Directions, P 95-122, 2003, Elmar G. M. Weitekamp and Hans-Jurgen Kerner, eds. -- See NCJ-201195)

NCJ Number
Luc Robert; Tony Peters
Date Published
28 pages
This chapter discusses a restorative detention pilot project that has been active in six Belgian prisons.
The initiative for Restorative Detention came from the penology and victimology research groups. This punishment-oriented and victim-oriented research is part of a tradition that spans three decades. The number of inmates in the prison system had increased by almost 40 percent over the last decade. There were many disadvantages associated with imprisonment, such as personal harm. In this context, restorative justice had recently been introduced as a new and promising perspective. Restorative justice is an interaction between offender, victim, and society where all parties make an effort and investment in order to arrive at a level of conciliation and communication. An essential characteristic is the restorative justice prison culture, which constitutes a culture of respect for prison personnel, prisoners, and the outside world. Another point of interest focuses on the financial problems of prisoners. For restorative detention to have any change of success, personnel from all prison departments must be personally and constructively involved. The introduction of the victim and the community leaves the door open to prisoners for processing what has happened and taking up responsibility. The first step in opening this door was to provide information to the prisoners. The practice of juridical office hours was the second step. Prisoners were then given the opportunity to become acquainted in a non-confrontational way with the experiences of victims. During the first year of the project, the main goals were to bring the social workers from within the system and outside of the system into contact with each other. The external social work and socio-cultural education also became visible with other information-oriented and sensitizing activities. Several external organizations were mobilized primarily to tackle the issue of debt among prisoners. Redress-oriented working within the prison context means the creation of possibilities for prisoners to assume their responsibility. A debt settlement project was initiated to work out whether it was possible from prison to manage debt, negotiate with creditors, and draw up payment plans. 39 notes, 71 references