Contact with the outside world

All prisoners have the right to receive visits


Untried prisoners have the right to receive daily visits.

Convicts have the right to three one-hour visits per week.

Prisoners and visitors can meet without physical barriers


The visiting system brings together visitors and prisoners around one table. Prisoners can be subjected to a disciplinary sanction, which deprives them of “table visits”. Hence, a window separates them. These separation measures may be imposed for security reasons. Visits may also be prohibited.

Prisoners are allowed to receive visits from their children or minor relatives

yes, with special requirements provided

The Association Relais Enfants-Parents supervises visits of children to their parent prisoner in several institutions. The number of affected children is estimated to be between 12,000 and 15,000. In 2015, more than 1,600 children have benefited from the support of the association.

  • In 2018, its budget, allocated to the discussions in order to prepare these family meetings, is in danger of suffering a decrease of 90%.

Conjugal visits are allowed


Required conditions for conjugal visits

family tie

The law allows for visits outside monitoring (VHS). These are not conjugal visits as such. These visits are not only intended for spouses. Any family member can benefit from it. There is no discrimination between heterosexual and homosexual couples.

  • In 2017, 1,145 visits outside monitoring were made in the prison of Saint-Gilles.

Visits outside monitoring, which are authorised for convicts once a month, are of a minimum of two hours. The room must be equipped with sanitary facilities, a bed and personal hygiene products (i.e. gloves, toilet paper, soap, condoms, towels, sanitary towels, etc.). It should be easy to access and discreet, both for the prisoner and for the visitor. Monitoring is ensured by a trained officer. In practice, these rooms are often not very isolated from other cells. Visitors are regularly subject to ridicule or insults.

Inmates can receive a limited quantity of clothes from their loved ones.

Individuals can request for family reunification. This is left to the discretion of the administration. Two related prisoners may ask to be placed, even temporarily, in the same prison.

Visits are frequently cancelled when there is not enough staff.

  • In 2017 the prison of Saint-Gilles saw a 65% workload increase without the addition of more staff.

Prisoners are allowed to exchange mail


Prisoners have the right to send and receive an unlimited number of letters.

Mail exchanged is subject to control


Prisoners are allowed to exchange mail in sealed envelopes


Only exchanges with the lawyer, the federal ombudsman and the monitoring commission are confidential.

Prisoners are allowed to make external phone calls


In principle, phone calls are granted on a daily basis except for those who have a partial or complete telephoning ban.

The rules and regulations determine the time slots and the duration of the calls. The prison of Mons allows prisoners to make a call for seven minutes every day between 8 am and 8 pm.

Prisoners are allowed to call


The phones are located

  • in the cells
  • in the corridors

The management only checks the recipient and the duration of the call.

The cost of phone calls is in line with market prices


They are increased by a minimum of ten-percent compared to prices on the outside.

Calls are made from telephones managed electronically by private companies (who control the dialled numbers and the identification of prisoners). Prisoners are responsible for communication fees.

Phones calls are wire tapped


The use of cell phones is authorised


Telephones and laptops are prohibited. Violation results in 30 days of isolation. In most institutions, telephones are located in the wings, which lead to the cells.

Some prisons are equipped with a “prison cloud”, a digital platform connected by wiring. An office computer installed in each cell allows prisoners to make a call, order from the commissary, and send requests to the management or to the psychosocial service. This system is said to encourage their autonomy. The relevant training for the use of this equipment is considered to be insufficient. The accessible content is thought to be the same. Cost estimates are currently being carried out in several institutions for the installation of fixed telephones in the cells.