Figures communicated by the boards of management of the Flemish and French-speaking remand prisons yesterday (Monday) indicated that in 2016, a total of 5,600 individuals had an electronic tagging bracelet. During the previous year, there were a total of 6,037 tagged cases. There is an appreciable decrease in Flanders (of 11.5%), whilst in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation the figures are virtually unchanged (with a decrease of 1.6%).
Last year, 3,050 individuals, either awaiting trial or convicted, were subject to electronic bracelet tagging in Flanders, and 2,550 in the Wallonia-Brussels Federation Wallonia-Brussels. This compares respectively to 3,444 and 2,593 in 2015.
This reduction is of concern when you consider that the Minister of Justice, Koen Geens, is particularly relying upon this means of surveillance to combat the problem of prison overcrowding.
A partial explanation for the reduction is the lack of staff at the Flemish Electronic Surveillance centre. Owing to the lack of staff numbers, the decision was taken to temporarily limit the number of individuals with an electronic tagging bracelet to 900 per day, in place of 1,200 as before.
However, very recently, on December 23rd, 2016, the Flemish government approved a new staffing strategy. Liesbeth Wyseur the spokeswoman for the Board of Management for the Flanders Remand Prison stated this. This strategy will be accomplished by new commitments in this sphere “as soon as possible.”
In the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, the number of individuals subject to electronic tagging surveillance seems to have stabilised after a continuous increase up to 2015.
Remand prisons are however expecting a fresh increase in 2017 emphasizing that, since May 1st, 2016, electronic tagging surveillance has been able to be handed down as an automatic criminal sanction.