Justice Department heads to heavy metal festival to recruit new prison staff

Justice Department heads to heavy metal festival to recruit new prison staff
A prison guard in the central control desk of the Leuze-en-Hainaut prison. Credit: Belga

The Belgian prison system is focussing on reintegrating detainees and preventing recidivism, which in turn requires staff to carry out a combination of tasks, resulting in them becoming overburdened, highlighting the need for more prison workers.

In light of this massive demand for new prison officers and other staff members, the Justice Department had already decided last month to speed up the hiring process. Now, it is reinforcing its recruitment campaign at Alcatraz: not the former maximum-security prison located in San Francisco Bay, but the hard rock and metal festival in Kortrijk.

"There is a shortage on the labour market. Companies are not the only ones looking for suitable candidates for their vacancies, Justice is too. That is why, for the first time, we are looking much more actively for the right people," Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne said, adding that it must do this in the right place.

"I am sure we will find those candidates among the metal fans. I know the metal audience well: they are people who want to contribute to a better society and help their fellow man. Those are the profiles we are looking for," he said.

Not the usual roles

The old-school vision for prisons — that people would come to moral repentance if they were locked up within a very strict security regime — has clearly failed at fulfilling its goal: 70% of the prisoners will appear before a judge again after their release in Belgium. Now, Justice is looking to better guide inmates to prepare them for their release.

As part of this reinvention of the prison system, the Justice Department is not only looking for the classic jobs that come to mind when thinking of detention centres, such as prison guard, it is also recruiting for "detention supervisor" jobs such as social assistant, nurse and psychologist.

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Whereas security assistants are mainly responsible for surveillance, control and observation to ensure the general safety of everyone within the prison, detention supervisor roles focus on aiding the detainees when their release is in sight, and focuses on tackling underlying problems that could cause recidivism.

This job differentiation is being introduced in phases, in the first phase in the new prisons of Haren-Brussels, Dendermonde and the detention houses.

Festival-goers at Alcatraz this weekend will be given the necessary information about the content of the jobs, the vacancies in the various prisons and how they can apply. The festival will take place from 12 to 14 of August and is expected to attract 25,000 visitors.


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