Belgium: intersecting approaches

Two prisons, two directors, one interview.

< image © Valentin Lombardi.

- “Changing the scale” series (5)

Not far from the border between Belgium and the Netherlands stands the Hoogstraten Penitentiary School Centre (PSC), an open prison with a community-based regime operating in a 19th century castle. Candidates must present a low security risk and be medically fit to work and go to school. This selection process identifies prisoners that already have one foot out the door. Two hours from Hoogstraten lies Kortrijk, where the first detention house in the country was opened in September 2022. A detention house is a small-scale facility located in an urban environment and designated for prisoners serving short sentences. They live in small groups of between 20 and 60 people and receive intensive, individualised support based on their specific needs.

Wendy Mercelis is assistant director at Hoogstraten Penitentiary School Centre (PSC). Petra Colpaert is the Governor of the Kortrijk detention house. We crossed their insights to understand the differences and similarities between these two places of detention. Prison Insider asked them three questions.