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Sofie Demeyer

I have to go to jail. Now what?

Since 1 September 2023, all prison sentences between 6 months and 2 years will be executed. What exactly does that mean, we'll explain.

Those who were given a prison sentence under 3 years by the judge almost never used to effectively end up behind bars with it. There was simply no room in the prisons. At worst, you got an ankle bracelet and had to serve your sentence at home or you got an alternative punishment such as community service. Occasionally, it also happened that a sentence was not carried out at all. Although prisons are still overcrowded, there was a change in the execution of sentences last year. People who incurred a prison sentence of between two and three years had to effectively spend time in prison from then on. From 1 September this year, this now applies even if the judge gave you a prison sentence of between six months and two years.

I got a prison sentence of 6 months or more, what happens then?

You get a note telling you to report to a particular prison within five days. How things proceed then depends partly on the severity of your sentence. Depending on that, you will either:

  • apply straight away not to have to serve your sentence behind bars.
  • first have to serve part of your sentence before you can apply to continue serving the rest of your sentence in your home, for example.

In an information brochure from the Federal Public Service for Justice, you can read how exactly this all works.

Can anyone ask not to have to serve their sentence in prison?

No. If you were given a prison sentence for, say, a sexual offence or a terror crime, you will have to serve your sentence in prison.