This year and next, a total of 60 prisoners convicted of terrorism and others who are known to have become radicalised are due to be released from prison, according to figures given by federal justice minister Koen Geens (CD&V).
There will be 33 releases this year, and 27 before the end of 2021, Geens said. Two of the prisoners will be resident in Brussels, 26 in Flanders and 32 in Wallonia.
Geens was replying to a parliamentary question from Vlaams Belang MP Marijke Dillen.
The prisoners concerned have served their original sentence and are not being released on parole, but Geens stressed that they will be kept under surveillance.
“When it comes to convicts who have reached the end of their sentences, a final report is prepared for the security partners that is useful in the follow-up of these persons. Convicts who leave prison through a ‘sentence-execution mode’ such as an ankle bracelet or parole, are followed up by the network of justice houses, which is a responsibility of the communities.”
However, recent research suggests that the risk of them offending again is small.
Thomas Renard of the independent think-tank, the Egmont Institute, looked at the cases of 557 prisoners with a similar profile in the 1990s. And he found that the rate of recidivism was around 5%.
“That is low, especially if you compare it with the percentage for ordinary crime, which according to other studies is between 40% and 50%,” he told De Tijd.
“Even if you take into account the complexity of such recidivism studies and the difficulty of comparing, there remains a clear difference.”
The reason for the mistaken idea of recidivism among public and professionals alike is, he suggests, the fact that some prominent faces keep on reappearing, while the majority move on to other things – sometimes ordinary crime, but more often not.
“I’m certainly not suggesting we should now cut the budgets of the intelligence services and stop deradicalisation projects because there is only 5% recidivism,” he said. “But one can take this into account, for example when passing sentences and discussing policy measures.”