The Central Prisons Supervisory Council (CCSP) and several associations are organising a week of public awareness on the living conditions of prisoners in Belgium. These “National Prison Days” will be held from Saturday, November 22nd to Friday, November 28th and are a first for Belgium. The Belgian event was modelled on a French initiative whose 21st edition will also be launched in late November.
The goal is to launch this project across Europe, announced Véronique Laurent, CCSP President, on Thursday. The Belgian event organizers started from the premise that most people are not aware what prison life entails, which leads to them creating their own “fantasies” about it. When people are well informed, their attitudes change. It’s important for them to understand that we all could potentially “face jail”, either directly or through a friend, a neighbour, or a family member. Tours of new prisons in Leuze and Marche have made the public more aware of the situation inside the walls,” said Véronique Laurent.
“On October 1st, there were 189 inmates (30%) in Forest prison living in cells housing 3 people, when the 9m2 cells are only designed for two. These cells contain a bunk bed and a mattress that is propped against the wall during the day. The toilet, at times a hygienic bucket, has no cover. Inmates usually wait for night to come to go to the bathroom (…) to maintain their dignity,” denounced Marie-Hélène Rabier, supervisory commissioner for the prisons of Forest and Berkendael.
For one week in late November, debates, exhibitions and events around a prison theme will be held across in Belgium. The project is backed by the CPSC, an independent section of the Justice Department responsible for ensuring prisoners’ rights, the Human Rights League and its Dutch counterpart, the International Prisons Observatory, the CAAP (Prison Associations Coalition), the Centre d’action laïque (secular action centre) and the Chaplaincies. The programme is available on the website “www.journeesprison.be“.