Prison terms no longer than three years will now be within the purview of the judicial authorities and will therefore no longer automatically entail electronic surveillance, under a bill just approved in Belgium’s legislature, Justice Minister Koen Geens indicated on Thursday. The bill was pssed by parliament’s Justice Commission at its last meeting for the current legislative period.
It will now be up to the sentence-enforcement judge to decide whether a person sentenced to less than three years in jail will be granted early release, electronic surveillance or limited detention. That decision had hitherto been taken by the penitentiary administration.
Under the new dispensation, the sentence-enforcement judge will decide, on the advice of the prison management and, possibly the Office of the Public Prosecutor and, where necessary, following a report from the law centre, whether the convicted person has been rehabilitated to such an extent that he can be conditionally released or whether he requires electronic surveillance or a limited-detention measure, Geens said. This will all be done through a written procedure.
For sentences of up to 18 months, the convicted person may ask, before the start of detention, to be allowed to serve his/her sentence under electronic surveillance, but that, too, will depend on the sentence-enforcement judge, Geens added, stressing that a ruling in favour of early release involves, for all convicted persons, the setting of a probation time during which they would have to respect their conditions rigorously.
Finally, Geens recalled that a sentence once pronounced would be executed on the basis of the law, and not through permutations.
The content of the prison term is also being improved, in particular through better organisation of the designing of a plan of prison work and training for each detainee, according to Geens. The law enters into effect on 1 October 2020 so as “to better prepare the courts and for it to come into effect and to take on enough magistrates and staff for the sentence-enforcement courts, he added.