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4/03/24 calls for urgent and structural action against overcrowding in Belgian prisons

In response to alarming figures on overcrowding in Belgian prisons, speaks out against this unacceptable situation. The number of detainees continues to rise. Despite recent increases in capacity, there is still almost 15 per cent overcrowding. This is an average figure. That is, there are really distressing conditions in certain prisons.

"An overcrowded prison system puts a huge mortgage on our justice system. It is time for action to address this crisis and restore confidence in our justice system."
Peter Callens, chairman

Overpopulation is unacceptable, Belgium repeatedly condemned

The continued overcrowding in our prisons is not only a violation of detainees' rights, but also places considerable pressure on the justice system and enforcement policies. Belgium has been condemned several times for these inhuman conditions. Belgium strikes a very bad note at European level, leading foreign judges to refuse to hand over prisoners to our country. This highlights the urgency for effective measures.

Result of more than 30 years of mismanagement

Overpopulation is not an acute problem that can be blamed on the justice minister, but the result of decades of lack of vision and lack of investment, despite all recent efforts. There is an urgent need for structural changes to address the root of the problem.

"Overcrowding is not just a matter of statistics; it is about people's lives, which deserves immediate and long-delayed attention. This is even more so with pre-trial detention: for them, the presumption of innocence applies."

In case of high urgency, one must find a solution

Steps have already been taken to address the problem in the long term. These include the construction of new prisons and renovation of old buildings, and the new Penal Code states that imprisonment is the ultimate remedy. However, these solutions offer no short-term relief. calls on the government to take swift and decisive action. It is unacceptable that detainees are held in lamentable conditions. This violates their rights and endangers general security. Overcrowding discourages prison staff and brings our country into disrepute. Immediate action must be taken to address this overcrowding and find adequate solutions.

"The corona crisis showed us that conditional release and anklets can be effective tools. Let us use these experiences to develop targeted solutions."
Nicolaas Vinckier, director of points out that in the corona crisis, conditional release and the use of ankle bracelets were used selectively but effectively to combat prison overcrowding. Those methods, combined with alternative punishments, can serve as inspiration for developing sustainable solutions to the overpopulation problem.

Policy under scrutiny

The current policy on pre-trial detention deserves critical evaluation. Pre-trial detention is subject to strict legal conditions. It should not be used as a means of pressure or as a kind of immediate punishment to please public opinion. The OVB calls for a change in mentality, following what the new Criminal Code stipulated regarding prison sentences, pre-trial detention should also become a true ultimum remedium.

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