Prison guards remain on strike
31 March 2005
BRUSSELS – Prison guards in several Belgian jails continued their strike action on Thursday.
Striking began earlier this week at Ittre prison after a State Council decree that lifted sanctions against three inmates involved in a jail break.
Industrial action spread to more prisons after staff decided to protest about poor working conditions and bad management.
Currently the strikes have affected prisons in Andenne, Audenaerde, Forest, Ghent, Hasselt, Huy, Lantin, Marneffe, Mons, Namur, Nivelles, Paifve, Saint-Hubert, Saint-Gilles, Tongres, Tournai and Turnhout.
Two meetings were planned for Thursday with Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx in an effort to diffuse the tension.
A principle complaint by staff is that management do not take into consideration the difficulties of their work.
Wardens are calling for special institutions to deal with problem prisoners and for better staff training.
Guards say they are not trained properly in how to handle violent situations.
One warden, Michel Jacobs, said he was handed a set of keys on his first day on the job in St Gilles and told to get on with it.
He was given his first training in how to search a prisoner properly seven years later.
“We feel humiliated by certain criticisms and ignored by the administration,” said one guard.
“We try to do our job within the rules and respecting procedures but we can find ourselves in extremely violent situations that are hard to manage,” he added.
Prison staff say the problem has been compounded by prisoners asserting their rights more and judges taking their side.
[Copyright Expatica 2005]
Subject: Belgian news