The patchwork of ten years of sentence implementation in Belgium
Prison overcrowding dominates penal policies and sentence implementation in Belgium for about three
decades and will probably continue to do so in the future. This article describes and analyses Belgian
sentence implementation policies of the last ten years, by focusing on the expansionist and reductionist
measures that have been taken to tackle prison overcrowding. It illustrates the interplay between both
policies and shows that reductionist measures, such as the introduction of autonomous sentences in
the community, and alternatives for remand imprisonment did not prevent the rise of the prison population to date. At the sentence implementation phase, the bifurcation policy between so-called ‘shortterm’ and ‘long term’ prisoners is further pursued. It is shown that back-door policies at the level of sentence implementation, such as provisional release of convicted persons with a prison sentence of up to three years and the replacement of these sentences by electronic monitoring at the implementation phase are the most effective means to control the size of the prison population. At the same time, we also see that conditional release of persons with a prison sentence of more than three years is decreasing and is delayed by the increasing use of the ‘gradual way’ of release by the sentence implementation courts and the rising number of prisoners maxing out their sentence in prison.