Promise of quicker funding for prison security
23 August 2006, BRUSSELS — Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx told MPs on Wednesday the federal government will allocate funding to improve prison security earlier than planned in response to the Dendermonde jail break.
23 August 2006
BRUSSELS — Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx told MPs on Wednesday the federal government will allocate funding to improve prison security earlier than planned in response to the Dendermonde jail break.
The government will invest earlier than planned EUR 14 million into security works and search for alternative financing for the purchase of ground where new jails will be constructed.
Onkelinx was forced on Wednesday to defend herself in front of MPs following the escape of 28 detainees from the Dendermonde prison on Saturday.
A government report indicates a series of human errors had been made, but the mass jail break was primarily blamed on the prison's obsolete security facilities, news agency Belga reported.
Onkelinx said the dilapidation of the penitentiary infrastructure constitutes a collective responsibility. She said investment had been held back for decades.
The Socialist PS minister said she was the first minister who had made an important attempt to catch up the arrears.
Onkelinx criticised her predecessors, Tony Van Parys (Christian Democrat CD&V) and Marc Verwilghen (Liberal VLD) who had earlier blamed her for the spectacular escape.
She accused Verwilghen of never putting forward a plan to build a new jail in Dendermonde.
Onkelinx stressed that it would have been impossible therefore to have opposed such a plan, as claimed by Verwilghen on Monday.
The opposition parties did not demand Onkelinx' resignation. However, the minister was subjected to severe criticism.
The CD&V urged the government to take the current opportunity to draw up a crisis plan for the prison system.
Van Parys said during the debate the Dendermonde jail break was a serious incident that could have been prevented.
He said the coalition government's multiple-year plan for the prison system contained good elements, but said efforts were being postponed to the following term of government.
Flemish Interest MP Bart Laeremans was harder in his criticism of Onkelinx.
He said the escape earlier this year of Turkish militant Fehriye Erdal had only embarrassed the nation in front of Turkey, but that now, the nation had been made to look ridiculous in front of the entire world.
Laeremans criticised the soft policies of the PS minister and the way in which she dodged responsibility.
"You are carved onto your throne. Asking your resignation doesn't help. Criticism falls of like water from a duck," he said.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news