No improvement in prison detention conditions despite international condemnation

Wednesday, 18 January 2017 13:51
Prison conditions in Belgium remain a serious concern both for the system and pressure groups. Prison conditions in Belgium remain a serious concern both for the system and pressure groups. © Belga
The federal government is investing billions of euros in building new prisons.
At the same time, there is an obvious lack of financial means for rehabilitation of prisoners. In addition detention conditions do not meet international recommendations.

The Belgian division of the International Prison Observatory (IPO) has denounced this position in a report on the three years from 2014 to 2016, published yesterday (Tuesday).

This voluminous 260-page report summarises the observations of the IPO's network of informers. The IPO is an independent organisation that strives for the right to prisoner dignity.

Members of this network include such prison system workers as lawyers, voluntary sector stakeholders and prisoners' next of kin.

During the last three years, the European Court of Human Rights has condemned Belgium on a number of occasions for lamentable prisoner living conditions.

The IPO has found conditions such as non-partitioned lavatories, cells without toilets, mattresses laid on the floor or prisoners' cell areas being less than the minimum required. In numerous prisons, there has even been a mix of smoker and non-smoker prisoners.

The strikes last year aggravated these conditions, without leading to establishing guaranteed minimum levels of service provision by prison officers.

The organisation adds that although “in some cases, the daily conditions of prisoners is materially improving, actual detention fundamentally remains a long and dark tunnel, lacking direction, which simply furthers the end of re-offending.”

Delphine Paci, the Co-President of the IPO's Belgian division, says, “We heard lots of initial excitement around reform. However all of the laws which should have combatted overpopulation, are in fact pursuing budgetary motives. We do not anticipate anything positive to come out of this in the long-term.”

Lars Andersen
The Brussels Times
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