Restorative Justice

at post-sentencing level supporting and protecting victims

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Restorative justice at pre and post-sentence stage: common and different features

By Katrien Lauwaert

Needs for communication about the crime that links victim and offender, appear at the pre-trial and the post-trial stage of the criminal process. Nevertheless, we see that in many countries the possibility of making contact with the other party through mediation or conferencing is offered only at the pre-trial stage. For institutional and criminal policy related reasons, for lack of experience and preconceived opinions about which cases are suitable, restorative justice practices at post-trial level are underdeveloped.

Research and practice in some countries show that post-sentencing restorative justice is possible and can be of great benefit to the participants. Those who organize it, face similar issues as in pre-trial RJ: the (equal and effective) accessibility of the RJ practice for victims and offenders, the respect of the voluntariness of participation, the confidentiality of the process and the impartiality of the mediator for example. I will argue that, if these safeguards come under pressure, this is less due to the stage in which RJ is organized, than to other aspects of the relationship between the RJ practice and the criminal justice system. The independence of the RJ services and the impact of RJ outcomes on criminal justice decisions are key in this respect.

Specific to the post-trial stage is the discussion on building restorative prisons or restorative units in prisons. Here the ambition goes much further than installing RJ practices with offenders in prison and stretches to a change of prison culture and introducing a whole range of initiatives that work in that direction. Is this an aim to go for and what can we learn from attempts in that direction?

Katrien Lauwaert works as a research officer and project leader at the European Forum for Restorative Justice and the Leuven Institute of Criminology on a project entitled ‘Desistance and Restorative Justice’, which is funded by the European Commission.

She studied law and criminology at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, l’Université Catholique de Louvain (Louvain-la-Neuve), the Rijksuniversiteit Leiden and the American University (Washington D.C.). She obtained a PhD from the University of Maastricht for her dissertation on ‘Procedural Safeguards in Restorative Justice’ in 2008. She worked as an assistant professor at the Criminal Law and Criminology Departments of Maastricht University (The Netherlands) and the University of Liège (Belgium), where she conducted research and taught courses on restorative justice, victimology, youth delinquency, criminology and criminal procedure.

Katrien Lauwaert is chair of the non-profit organization Suggnomè. Forum voor herstelrecht en bemiddeling, which organizes victim-offender mediation for adult offenders and their victims in Flanders and Brussels and which acts as a Forum on restorative justice developments in Belgium. She has been a member of the board, coordinator of the newsletter and founding member of the European Forum for Restorative Justice.


With the financial support from the Criminal Justice Programme of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibilty of "Schleswig-Holsteinischer Verband für soziale Strafrechtpflege; Straffälligen- und Opferhilfe e.V" and can in no way be taken to refect the views of the European Commission.