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Danish Center for Welfare Studies

The Politics of Insecurity: Criminal justice and social welfare in insecure times

Time: 21 March 2024

Place: FINANCE TOWER, Kruidtuinlaan 50 – Boulevard du Jardin Botanique 50, 1000 Brussels

Registration via this link. Participation is free of charge.

Deadline for registration: 14 March 2024

The venue is easily accessible by subway (Metro Station Kruidtuin/Botanique) or by train (both Central and North Station are a 10-minute walk).

Workshop theme: Subjective feelings of insecurity seem to be on the rise again. Insecurity is not limited to fear of crime, but extends to economic insecurity, cultural insecurity and more free-floating anxieties connected to the pace and unpredictability of social changes. What are the patterns and causes of these insecurities? What are their consequences for individuals, collectives and democratic politics? A particular concern is to what extent (in)security is unequally distributed across income, gender, education, ethnicity and the like. Finally what kind of policies – especially in the areas of criminal justice and social welfare – are effective in dealing with diffuse insecurities in ethical ways – at the national and local level as well as inside of institutions? These are some of the questions this workshop will address. We invite both researchers and practitioners to discuss contemporary and future politics of insecurity across disciplinary divides.


Christoph Mincke, Directeur opérationnel criminologie – Operationele directeur criminology, NICC, and Professor, Université Saint-Louis,

Peter Starke, Professor (mso), Department of Political Science and Public Management, University of Southern Denmark


9:00-9:15       Welcome and introduction (Christophe Mincke, NICC and Peter Starke, SDU)

9:15- 11:00:  Part I: The relationship between inequality and insecurity

This panel will discuss the interlinkages between insecurity and inequality and policy responses in the realm of welfare and punishment. Papers will engage both with conceptual and theoretical underpinnings as well as empirical evidence on these relationships.

Chair: Georg Wenzelburger (Saarland University, Germany)

  • Peter Starke (SDU): Unequal security and the welfare state
  • Stefaan Pleysier (KU Leuven): Fear of crime as a ‘sponge’. Balancing between everyday reality and irrational illusion
  • François Bonnet (CNRS, University of Grenoble Alpes - Sciences Po Grenoble): “The dynamics of welfare and punishment: a review of the econometric evidence in support of the principle of less eligibility”

    11:00-11:15   Coffee break

    11:15-13:00:  Part II: Policymaking and insecurity: Comparative perspectives

    Security is one of the key promises of politics and policymaking. A host of different policies promise to address insecurity, from crime prevention and punishment to welfare state schemes. This panel deals with how politics responds to insecurity and which cross-national patterns we find in policy responses to insecurity.

    Chair: Peter Starke

  • Georg Wenzelburger (Saarland University): Going soft: Under what conditions become states less punitive?
  • Kaitlin Alper (SDU): The effect of physical and economic insecurity on punitive attitudes: experimental evidence
  • François Rinschbergh (Université Saint-Louis - Bruxelles): Beyond the securitization of Islam. Belgian anti-radicalization policies and the spectre of "cultural insecurity"

    13:00-14:00   Lunch

    14:00-15:30:  Parallel roundtable sessions: What works in criminal justice and social welfare? 

    Roundtable 1: Insecurity in institutions

    This round-table discussion will look at the relationship between insecurity and inequality within institutions. Prisons, hospitals and care facilities for vulnerable groups, among others, face particularly acute tensions between promoting equality and maintaining acceptable conditions of order and security.

    Chair: Christophe Mincke

  • Oscar O’Mara, Senior Research Fellow, University of Essex, UK
  • Elien Goossens, Luc Robert & Eric Maes (NICC) - insecurity in detention/prisons
  • Benjamin Peltier, advocacy officer at L'Ilot, an organization committed to assisting individuals experiencing homelessness in Brussels
  • Quinten Vercruysse, Unia, an independent public institution that fights discrimination and promotes equality, Brussels


    Roundtable 2: Insecurity in public spaces

    This round table discusses tackling insecurity in public spaces, with attention to challenges where the themes of security and inequality meet. In addition to an academic view, the approach in Brussels is also discussed from both the perspective of the police and social work.

    Chair: Dieter Burssens

  • Olivier Slosse (Brussels police)
  • Filip Keymeulen (Street-corner worker, Diogenes and Odisee University College, Belgium)
  • Laust Lund Elbek (Aalborg University, Denmark)

    15:30-15:45:  Coffee break

    15:45-16:30   Plenary session: What have we learned? What lies in the future?

  • Plenary discussion
  • Christophe Mincke (NICC): Summary and Perspective


Full programme

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