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    Investigation into allegations of abuse in Merksplas prison

    © Belga
    © Belga

    Wives of Merksplas inmates have published an open letter in which they denounce a series of poor treatments. “We can no longer stand to see our men treated in this way,” they write in a letter relayed by Het Nieuwsblad and Het Laatste Nieuws Saturday. The comments are taken seriously by the penitentiary institutions management (EPI), which opened an enquiry.

    The building is dated 1825 and is in a deplorable state. Yet another washroom had to be closed recently for lack of running water. According to the signatories, their husbands receive no psychological assistance, and are not at all prepared to their being released.

    They also mention belittling treatment during unsupervised visits. “If we go for an unsupervised visit, we are invariably sent to the cell “69.’’ Is this absolutely necessary? It is already unpleasant, for everyone knows what we do during unsupervised visits. But on top of that, we have to put up with guards’ comments.”

    “The parking’s washroom was closed for lack of running water, and for not meeting hygiene requirements,” noted the EPI spokesperson Kathleen Van De Vijver. “Normally, it is the responsibility of the buildings’ management.’’ The renovation of the Merksplas prison is part of the Masterplan #3. Currently in preparation, it will be led in several phases, running until 2027. “The sanitation facilities are derelict, we keep it up as well as we can with the poor resources at our disposition,’’ comments again Mrs. Van De Vijver.

    But the administration is more embarrassed about the room 69. “After consultation with the janitorial service, the selection of this room has been confirmed. Neither management nor the penitentiary assistants were aware of this. We have given instructions so that this will never happen again.’’ But as for the disparaging remarks, there is not yet concrete proof of them.

    The spokesperson confirms that the complaints are taken very seriously, and that an in-house enquiry will be led.

    Andy Sanchez
    The Brussels Times