The research group Crime & Society-Youth Justice studies has expertise related to children at risk:
1. The group has a longstanding research tradition related to children’s rights in youth justice. J. Christiaens and E. Dumortier are co-founders of the Children’s Rights Knowledge Centre in Flanders (KEKI) and participate in the international youth-criminological debate on (punitive tendencies in) youth justice and the role children’s rights can or should play. Jenneke Christiaens is co-chair of the ESC working group on Juvenile Justice. We do not only conduct research on children’s rights “in books'' but are mainly interested in the role children’s rights play (or not) in daily practices (empirical children’s rights). Hence, research focussed on children’s rights at the level of the police (police interrogations, stop & search), closed youth institutions (right to complain) and asylum procedures.
2. J. Christiaens, E. Dumortier and A. Nuytiens have conducted several research projects on Belgian youth justice practices, from a criminological, comparative and a historical approach. They have published numerous national and international contributions on the Belgian youth justice system. Special attention goes to judicial trajectories of youth delinquents (boys and girls), the use of detention and the complex question of desistance (why and how do young delinquents stop engaging in delinquent behaviour).
3. In recent years our research focusses more on how different social exclusion mechanisms enhance criminalization and thus how youth at social risk are more likely to come in conflict with the law: non-accompanied minors and asylum; young migrants, the police and discrimination, Roma children and the juvenile justice (JJ) system, children with problematic educational home situations and the JJ-system, gender and juvenile justice contacts, detention and stigmatization.
4. We have a strong qualitative empirical (criminological) research expertise, with the aim of including the perspective and voice of young people “in conflict with the law”, such as: ethnography; (participative) observations in youth justice settings (youth court, youth institutions, restorative justice experiments), in-depth interviews (with – former- youngsters in the justice system), file analysis. Recently (IRP1) we started exploring the development and use of new (arts-based, visual and performative) research methods.