Belgium: walling up madness

How does Belgium handle mentally disordered offenders?

Many individuals who have committed offences and suffer from mental health illness are held under the ordinary prison regime. Others are interned in “Social Defence Facilities,” sometimes for indefinite periods. These prisoners have different legal statuses, may be placed in several different settings, and receive various levels of care. What is the fate of mentally disordered offenders in Belgium?

Prison Insider and the French National Union for Family and Friends of People Suffering Mental Illness and/or Psychological Disability (Unafam) examined the experience of offenders with mental health problems in eight European countries. Here is an overview of the situation in Belgium.

A psychiatric hospital that receives prisoners should be considered a "branch of the correctional facility."


CPL (Centres de psychiatrie légale, i.e., Forensic Psychiatry Centres): facilities that only accommodate individuals subjected to an internment measure. The Ministry of Health is responsible for health care, while the prison administration is responsible for security.

CPS (Chambre de protection sociale, i.e., Social Protection Chamber): the section of the enforcement court responsible for the placement of individuals subjected to an internment measure. This placement can take place at any time during the criminal procedure. The CPS is responsible for all the conditions of the protocol.

DGEPI (Direction générale des établissements pénitentiaires, i.e., Directorate General of Correctional Facilities:): prison administration.

EDS and SDS (Établissements et sections de défense sociale, i.e., Facilities and Social Defence Sections): places where internment measures under the control of prison administration are carried out.

“Forensic Medium Risk” Unit: specialised units for incarcerated people suffering from mental illness.