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Belgian Sentencing as a Bifurcated Practice?
Crime and Justice  (IF4.474),  Pub Date : 2016-08-01, DOI: 10.1086/685756
Veerle Scheirs, Kristel Beyens, Sonja Snacken

Belgian sentencing is in a period of turmoil. Belgian judges value their independence. Most believe in the desirability of individualized sentencing and resent intrusions on their autonomy. Although many continue to hold classsical views about the purposes of sentencing, new practices and laws, triggered partly by several decades of rising imprisonment rates and recent efforts by policy makers and correctional officials to contain it, have changed the penal landscape. The public prosecutor has increasing authority to divert cases from investigation and from sentencing judges, leading to de facto sentencing powers for prosecutors. Recent and upcoming innovations have created new freestanding sanctions of work penalties (often elsewhere called community service), electronic monitoring, and probation. A more fully bifurcated legal system is emerging with longer prison sentences for some offenses and offenders, including postprison preventive detention, and more community punishments aiming for a reduced use of imprisonment for others. Many judges are unconvinced though about the desirability of reduced imprisonment use for some convicted offenders. It remains to be seen what Belgian sentencing will look like when practices incorporating recent changes have stabilized.