Expatica news

Overcrowding at Belgian prisons

8 April 2005
BRUSSELS – Belgian jails are bursting at the seams as the number of prisoners continues to far exceed available cells, new figures from the national statistics office show.
Some 9,330 prisoners are currently squeezed into 8,133 available cells.
That compares to 8,605 prisoners in 7,436 available cells in 2002 and 9,308 prisoners in 7,866 cells in 2003.
In 2004, 9,249 prisoners were crowded into 8,092 cells.
Rather than build new prisons, Belgian authorities have sought to tackle the problem by promoting the use of electronic bracelets.
These are worn by convicted criminals permitted to serve out their prison sentence at home, and allow police to track their every move and ensure they don’t try to escape.
Former Justice Minister Marc Verwilghen and his successor Laurette Onkelinx have both promised to put as many as 1 million prisoners under electronic surveillance in the near future.
However, the evidence from the statistics office shows that there is still a long way to go to reach that goal.
As of this year, only 275 prisoners wear electronic bracelets, even less than in previous years (279 in 2004 and 284 in 2003).
Last December, Onkelinx told the Belgian parliament that 450 prisoners would benefit from electronic surveillance during the course of 2005, and that the 1,000-mark threshold would be reached during the current legislative period.
It remains to be seen whether that will be achieved.
While not all crimes are registered with federal authorities, the statistics’ office report also provides an interesting breakdown of regional differences.
It shows that 34 percent of crimes were committed in Wallonia, 19 percent in the Brussels region and 47 percent in Flanders.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news