Minister responds to interim report on conditions in secure young offenders’ centres

The Flemish Social Welfare Minister Jo Vandeurzen (Christian democrat) has responded to an interim report in which the conditions at secure young offenders’ centres in Flanders were described as being “sometimes lacking”. Mr Vandeurzen told VRT News that he has no plans to introduce any big changes at the centres any time soon. "We will of course look at any issues that need to be addressed urgently, but I want to enter into dialogue with the facilities”, Mr Vandeurzen told VRT Radio 1’s morning news and current affairs programme ‘De ochtend’.   

The Youth Detention Supervisory Commission’s first interim report that was published on Monday says that conditions in secure youth detention centres in our region often leave a lot to be desired.  

The nationalist member of the Flemish Parliament Lorin Parys expressed his concerns about the content of the report on Monday evening. “It is stated in the report that a boy was kept in solitary confinement for 14 days. It is also reported that the isolation cells are very dirty and there is no way of being to know what time it is while inside”, Mr Parys said.  

The opposition party Groen has also expressed concern. The party’s Elke Van den Brandt told VRT News “There is not enough staff, the infrastructure is not good and there is too little decent training. It is a fundamental problem and it is time that the coalition parties realise this”, Ms Van den Brandt said.  

In response Mr Vandeurzen stressed that it is a preliminary report.

"An external body is now in place to ensure that the rights of young people in secure detention centres are observed”.

The Minister is also keen to stress that the youth detention centres should be able to present their side of the story.  

“We need to behave as adult when dealing with external monitoring. It was a conscious decision on our part to introduce it and we will of course use its findings. We should learn and try and make policy decision based on it”.       

Mr Vandeurzen intends to respect to timeframe that was agreed when the external monitors started their work last year. Their final report is expected early next year.  

"We have hardly begun. However, we will of course look at what is urgent”, Mr Vandeurzen concluded.