From ‘community service’ to ‘autonomous work penalty’ in Belgium. What’s in a name?

    by:
  • Kristel Beyens (Criminology Department, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium, Kristel.Beyens@vub.ac.be)

In Belgium, community service (dienstverlening) for adults was introduced in 1994 as a condition of probation at the sentencing level and as a condition of mediation at the prosecution level. It became the so-called ‘work penalty’ (werkstraf) in 2002. This change in the terminology and the legal and penological basis, from an alternative sanction embedded in a rehabilitative approach to just another neoclassical form of punishment primarily aiming for retribution, ushered in another sentencing practice and led to a rapid increase in the number of work penalties imposed. This article describes the legal provisions governing the ‘work penalty’ and the peculiarities of its implementation in practice. It explores the possible explanations of the success of this sentence and the implications of that success for its execution.

Keywords: Community service, Work penalty, Belgium, Sentencing, Implementation

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