Last week 12 and 13 December 2014, the EFRJ staff based in Leuven participated to the so-called “Thinking days” together with the Restorative Justice Research Line of the KU Leuven Institute of Criminology (LINC). The two-days meeting took place in the training centre for penitentiary staff based on Merksplas, 75 km from Leuven (Belgium).
The “Thinking days” have been organized thanks to the ongoing collaboration between the EFRJ and LINC. During the first work session, Prof. Ivo Aertsen, one of the founders of the EFRJ, presented the history of the RJ Research Line at the Law Faculty of KU Leuven, starting from the history of the criminology field at KU Leuven in the 1930s, continuing with the start of victimology in the 1980s and finally the launch of research on RJ in the 1990s, which resulted in the birth of the EFRJ in 2000. A previous researcher of the EFRJ, Brunilda Pali, contributed to this presentation by mapping the research carried out so far by the RJ Research Line (a brochure presenting these researches until 2014 can be found here).
The historical overview of the history of research on RJ conducted in Leuven has been used as a starting point to further discuss the identity of the RJ Research Line at LINC, in terms of research, methodology, interaction between theory and practice, interdisciplinary approach and international dimension of the RJ Research Line. The discussion further continued during the second work session, where the internal functioning of the RJ Research Line was discussed. This session was led by the EFRJ’s previous executive officer, Monique Anderson, and it referred to the tasks conducted by the members of the RJ Research Line, as well as the exchange and contacts between each other, the guidance and supervision of all researchers and the leadership of all the team. Special attention was given also to the relation between the EFRJ and LINC, to identify how the two bodies can keep on interacting and supporting each other in the future.
The “Thinking days” ended with a guided tour in the prison/school centre of Hoogstraten. This prison is reserved for an exclusive group of 180 Belgian prisoners, who can attend professional learning programmes (i.e., for carpenters, bricklayers, electricians and printers). While living in prison, prisoners have the opportunity to learn a profession and receive a diploma, which can be used in the outside world. Compared to other Belgian prisons, the one in Hoogstraten has limited protection measures and focuses on the rehabilitation of the offender through this interesting strategic community plan.
The EFRJ staff was delighted to take part in this two-day event together with the RJ researchers from KU LINC and it is looking forward to strengthen this historical collaboration, which exists since almost 15 years.