ARPEGE is a fully subsidized private agency working in the field of juvenile delinquency.
It organizes “alternative measures” and "restorative activities" such as community service, victim-offender mediation and Family Conferencing.
Belgium is a federal country whose intricate evolution has led to three cultural Communities (the Flemish, the French and the German-speaking communities) and three economic Regions (the Flemish, the Walloon and the Brussels Regions). The Communities are competent for carrying out all measures taken by the juvenile court, a task that they can delegate to subsidized non-profit organizations. Arpège is one of these private NGOs that operate within the legal framework of the Belgian Juvenile Justice Act of 1965. This legislation based on the so-called “protection model” has been modified in 2006. Restorative elements have been introduced in the law.
Community service is the earliest activity of Arpège. Since 1st November 1985 Arpège (under the name of GEPPC during the five first years) has been organizing the community service measures ordered by the juvenile judge. About 4000 juvenile offenders aged between 14 and 18 have so far dedicated between 30 and 150 hours of their leisure time to working for a public or a non-profit private agency. This measure which finds its legal basis in art. 37 § 2 4° and 37 § 2bis 2° of the (reformed) Juvenile Justice Act of 1965 is clearly based on a rehabilitative philosophy, but it also includes a symbolic restoration of the victim and the community while holding offenders accountable.
Realizing how difficult it was for juvenile offenders to grasp the extent of the consequences of their acts and how neglected the victims felt, Arpège paid attention to the development of restorative activities in other countries and started a program of mediation in collaboration with juvenile magistrates.
The objective of the process is to facilitate communication between both parties who have agreed to discuss either directly or through a mediator the best way to resolve their conflict.
Arpège set up a special department (Ouverture-Médiation) to run this program, which now has a clear legal basis since changes were brought in the law in May-June 2006.
Conferencing for juvenile delinquents has been introduced in the law in 2006. Practice includes the victim, the juvenile offender and the broader community. It is mainly a deliberation between the offender and his network, the victim and her network and a person representing the community at large (generally a police representative). Two neutral facilitators (mediators) employed by Arpège structure the deliberation.
This program consists of juvenile group activities whose goal is to help offenders to accept responsibility for their actions and to realize that they have not merely broken the law, but have harmed another individual. This program is used when the judge requires it.