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Prison overcrowding reaches record high

09:02 01/02/2024

Overcrowding in Belgium's prisons has reached a record high, with unions warning that “such a situation leads to escalations”.

There are 12,012 inmates in Belgium's prisons – the first time the 12,000 mark has been passed, the prison administration acknowledged in Het Nieuwsblad, confirming a report by unionist Eddy De Smedt.

“A cell measuring three metres by three metres, with three people, one of whom has to lie on a mattress on the floor – of course, such a situation leads to tenion,” De Smedt said, calling the number of prisoners “downright appalling”.

“In principle, Belgian prisons can hold around 10,500 inmates,” said De Smedt – nearly 2,000 less than its currency occupancy.

The federal administration put the total capacity - including two detention centres and halfway houses - at 10,700.

The prison administration acknowledged the situation, with a spokesperson confirming the number of inmates.

“On 1 February, we will be consulting the unions again on this subject in order to discuss the issue,” the spokesperson said.

Photo: Nicolas Maeterlinck/Belga

Written by Helen Lyons