Nicolas Maeterlinck

24-hour strike in the country’s prisons

Dutch-speaking staff at prisons in Flanders and Brussels will down tools for 24-hours from 10pm on Sunday. The prison staff are taking industrial action in protest at structural overcrowding and understaffing at the penal institutions where they work. Their Francophone colleagues at prisons in Wallonia and Brussels will stage a 24-hour strike from 10pm on Monday. 

Belgium’s 35 prisons have room for 9,500 prisoners. However, 10,700 prisoners are currently incarcerated in them. The overcrowding is not new, and it has long had an impact on both prisoners and those that work in the country’s prisons.

The unions that represent prison staff are demanding concreate action from the Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne (Flemish liberal). They accuse Mr Van Quickenborne of dragging his heals when it comes to realising promises already made.

In a response the Justice Minister told VRT News that “The 280 additional places that we have to create to reduce overcrowding in some prisons is a temporary solution for 12 months that could be extended for a further 6 months. But in the meantime, we aim to open the new prison at Haren (Brussels) and Dendermonde (East Flanders). The new transition houses we will result in the creation of 450 new place this year”.

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