The courts of the administration of punishment at work. Etnografic research into their interactions, decision making and practices.

Project Details


General purpose of the research: To uncover the characteristics of the multidisciplinary implementation courts through study of their interactions, decision-making processes and practices with regard to the different elements in the detention trajectory of the prisoner. An open process analysis of the formal and informal arguments and interactions (frontstage and backstage) between all professional and non-professional participants before, during and after court sessions, and of the specific organisational and cultural context within which decision-making develops.

Since 1 February 2007 nine multidisciplinary courts in Belgium decide over four aspects of the detention trajectory of prisoners sentenced to three years imprisonment or more: (1) semi-detention, (2) electronic monitoring, (3) conditional release and (4) provisional release in view of expulsion or extradition. Sentences to less than three years are decided by a single implementation judge. This is a true revolution in the Belgian penitentiary landscape: important decisions concerning the implementation of sentences are now taken by multidisciplinary courts, presided by a judge, with two non-jurists assessors specialized in social reintegration or in prison matters. A specialised public prosecutor is added, and the offender and the victim can participate in the hearings with their respective attorneys. This combination of non-professional and professional actors with diverse expertise and backgrounds and the specificity of the matters decided, i.e. the detention trajectory, creates a unique penal context, which has not yet been studied and which is rather unique internationally. This raises diverse interesting questions concerning the emergence of a particular culture of decision-making and functioning and the positon of these implementation courts within current developments as described in the international penological literature.
Effective start/end date1/01/1031/12/12


  • Sentencing
  • Pre-Trial Detention
  • Community Policing
  • Restorative Justice
  • Criminal Policy
  • Criminal Law
  • Prison Systems
  • Juvenile Justice
  • Economic Criminality
  • Criminal Procedure

Flemish discipline codes

  • Law and legal studies