Currently around 300 cells are allegedly lying empty in Belgian prisons, disclosed Le Soir, De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad on Thursday. Penal institutions in Beveren and especially in Leuze-en Hainaut are the worst ‘offenders’. The brand new prison in the Hennuyeres region, for example, houses about 70 inmates although it has space for 312.
This surprising underuse can probably be explained by the current shortage of prison guards, which is itself due to hiring limitations imposed by the federal authorities. As a result there are currently not enough guards to ensure the full use of facilities at Beveren and Leuze-en Hainaut.
The situation is all the more lamentable as overpopulation in other prisons remains considerable, even if there has been a noticeable improvement in recent months. There are still 11,300 prisoners for 10,116 places.
The situation is especially critical in detention centres for those awaiting trial or sentencing, where overpopulation is still a problem at around 25%.