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Penal Policy and Practice in Belgium (From Crime, Punishment, and Politics in Comparative Perspective, P 127-215, 2007, Michael Tonry, ed. - See NCJ-241880)

NCJ Number
Sonja Snacken
Date Published
89 pages
This essay examines use of pretrial detention and long prison sentences in Belgium.
Belgian imprisonment rates increased from 65 to 95 per 100,000 population in the past quarter century, and the use of pretrial detention and long prison sentences increased. Notorious crimes, most prominently the Dutroux case, produced mass demonstrations, and a right-wing political party repeatedly urged harsher policies. In contrast to the United States and England, however, and although criminal justice policy became more politicized, Belgium did not adopt primarily expressive crime policies. Instead, a process of bifurcation resulted in expansion of prosecutorial diversions, prison alternatives, mediation, and restorative justice initiatives for less serious offenses, and longer sentences for the most serious offenses. The main political parties continued to adopt pragmatic positions and balanced policies. Belgian policymakers continued to rely on expert advice; the emergence of a victims movement did not polarize the politics of crime control, and the influence of the human rights movement, embodied particularly in the European Convention and Court of Human Rights, steadily grew. (Published Abstract)