New Detention Centers in Belgium: Promoting Rehabilitation and Reentry

2023-11-13 06:00:00

Since September 1, 2022, prison sentences of between 2 and 3 years have been carried out again, and since September 1, 2023, sentences of between 6 months and 2 years. The execution of short sentences must mainly take place in detention centers where convicts have the opportunity to participate in useful activities, take control of their lives and prepare as best as possible for their release, without falling back into crime. Individuals convicted of terrorism or sexual offenses are not permitted. Residents carry out household chores together, such as cooking, cleaning and laundry. Detention counselors help them get their lives back in hand.

At this stage, the detention centers in Kortrijk and Forest are operational and others are planned in Antwerp, Genk, Ninove, Olen and Zelzate.

Wallonia was lagging behind. For a mayor, hosting such an establishment did not seem very popular.

New detention centers housed 57 convicts last year

However, the figures show that the approach works. In Kortrijk, 90 residents were welcomed, 43 of whom were able to leave the detention center. Most found employment and accommodation during their stay in the detention center. They said the work allowed them to regain structure and self-esteem.

This time, things are moving in the south of the country. The first Walloon detention centers will be installed in Liège and Jemeppe-sur-Sambre, in the province of Namur. As a result, the counter will display nine detention centers. In Jemeppe-sur-Sambre, a detention center that can accommodate 40 people will be installed on the site of the former gendarmerie barracks. In Liège, a former youth hostel will be transformed into a detention center that can accommodate 60 people. On these two sites, the current buildings will be demolished in spring 2024 in order to then begin construction.

Stéphanie Thoron, mayor of Jemeppe-sur-Sambre, would like to reassure: “The FPS Justice and the Buildings Authority have opted to give a second life to the buildings of the former Moustier gendarmerie, owned by the Authority. The role of municipal authorities in this project is to be a transmission belt between citizens and the Federal Government. We want to ensure that questions and/or concerns are considered and answered. As such, funding from the Federal will allow the Municipality to hire a coordinator/mediator who will be able to create a link between this new structure and local life (residents, field stakeholders, non-profit organizations, etc.) Finally, the Municipal College will remain alongside both citizens and the Federal Government for this important project.”

Stéphanie Thoron, the new mayor of Jemeppe-sur-Sambre.

©EdA

Willy De Meyer, mayor of Liège, says nothing else: “I will be very attentive to the fact that this project, which aims to fight against a form of impunity and injustice for the victims of acts considered less serious, but traumatic, takes place without disturbing the life of the neighborhood and its inhabitants.”

Portrait of Willy de Meyer ©TONNEAU

Paul Van Tigchelt, Minister of Justice, does not hide his enthusiasm: “These new detention centers will be built with prefabricated units so that the deployment of the network of detention centers can be done quickly and efficiently. This approach works. The French are also following it with interest. The French Minister of Justice, Eric Dupont-Moretti, will soon visit the Kortrijk detention center to study our way of doing things.”

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