'Catastrophic' living conditions in Saint-Gilles Prison

'Catastrophic' living conditions in Saint-Gilles Prison
The prison of Saint-Gilles. Credit: Jonas Roosens / Belga

An association of relatives of detainees in Belgium’s Saint-Gilles Prison (CPDB) has raised concerns about what it believes to be “catastrophic living conditions” in the prison.

In a communication sent to Le Soir, which was published on Saturday, CPDB said that “the living conditions of the inmates, already deplorable because of overcrowding and confinement, have deteriorated recently because of the opening of the Haren prison despite a lack of staff.”

They went on to accuse the Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open VLD) for having insisted to move ahead too quickly with the project “despite the foreseeable consequences that would fall on the inmates.”

This autumn, 188 men and 76 women were transferred to Haren prison, for a total of 1,190 inmates. According to the prison administration, 832 people are currrently locked up in Saint-Gilles Prison, which is just below the maximum capacity now set at 850.

Due to the lack of staff, CPDB says that inmates have not been able to receive any laundry or visits for three weeks. About ten cells are apparently without windows. The collective says it is “studying the introduction of a complaint against the Belgian state,” recalling the condemnations already expressed in 2016 in the context of a long prison strike movement.

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