From this research on "Contemporary punishment", two major voids appear, raising new research questions:
1) Why is western "contemporary punishment" generally seen as an institution "in transition"? What are the broader social-political tendencies in western societies which can explain the transformations? The answer to these questions is usually linked to the emergence of "insecurity" as a major political issue in many western countries, often leading to a crisis of legitimacy of political and juridical institutions and raising political and public interest in and pressure on criminal justice systems. Important questions however remain unanswered in this area, i.a. concerning the extent of the crisis of legitimacy with the citizen and the real importance of "insecurity" in this crisis, and concerning different reactions by political and justice systems to regain legitimacy.
2) One of the major consequences of this pressure on criminal justice systems described in Anglo-Saxon penological literature concerns the penal paradigm of "rehabilitation", result of the "penal welfarism" once seen as the central structural basis for penal actors and agencies, and now either described as discredited and in decline or fundamentally transformed. Are the evolutions described however equally valid for Belgium or other continental European countries?
The current research proposal has two major aims:
- to answer these questions for Belgium,
- to compare the Belgian situation internationally.
The interdisciplinary team cooperating in the current GOA-research on "Contemporary punishment" hence wants to continue its cooperation within the university and to extend it to European colleagues, in order to develop a European comparative research network on these important questions. Moreover, two of the post-doctoral researchers of the current GOA-research are now co-promotors of the new proposal: Prof. Dr. Kristel Beyens and Prof. Dr. Paul De Hert.
The interdisciplinary character of the new research proposal is hence guaranteed by bringing together experts in (comparative) penology, sociology of punishment, sociology of law, legal theory, criminological theory, comparative European criminal law and human rights.