Contact with the outside world

All prisoners have the right to receive visits

yes

Defendants have the right to receive daily visits.

Convicts are allowed three one-hour visits per week.

Prisoners and visitors can meet without physical barriers

yes

The visiting room system accomodates visitors and the inmate around a table. Prisoners may be subject to disciplinary action depriving them of a “table visit”, in which case they are separated from visitors by a window.
This separation device can also be required for security reasons. Visits may also be prohibited.

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

yes, special arrangements are provided

The Relais Enfants-Parents organisation oversees the visits of children to their inmate parent in several establishments. It is estimated that between 12,000 and 15,000 children are concerned. In 2015, over 1,600 children received the organisation’s support.
The organisation’s budget for interviews to prepare these family meetings is threatened with a 90% decrease for 2018.

Conjugal visits are allowed

yes

Required conditions for conjugal visits

family relation

The law allows for unsupervised visits. They are not intended exclusively for spouses, but are open to any member of the family. No distinction is made between heterosexual and homosexual couples.

In 2017, there were 1,145 unsupervised visits in the Saint-Gilles prison.

Unsupervised visits are authorised for convicts once a month, for a minimum of two hours. The room must be equipped with a toilet, a bed and personal hygiene products (gloves, toilet paper, soap, condoms, sanitary towels, etc.). The room must be easily accessible and discreet, for both the inmate and their visitor. These rooms are often not very well-isolated from other cells. Female visitors are regularly mocked or insulted.

Visitors are allowed to bring a limited quantity of linens.

Requests for family reunification can be made, subject to evaluation by the administration. Two related prisoners may ask to be placed, even temporarily, in the same facility.

Visits are frequently cancelled when there are not enough staff present. Several prisons are experiencing a shortage of administrative staff.
In 2017, the Saint-Gilles prison registry saw its workload increase by 65%, with no increase in staff.

Prisoners are allowed to exchange mail

yes

There is no limit on outgoing or incoming mail.

Mail exchanged is subject to control

yes

Prisoners are allowed to exchange mail in sealed envelopes

yes

Discussions with lawyers, the federal ombudsman and the supervisory commission are confidential.

Prisoners are allowed to make external phone calls

yes

In principle, phone calls are allowed daily, except in cases of partial or total withdrawal of telephone rights.

Internal regulations determine the time slot and duration of calls. The Mons prison allows inmates to make 7-minute calls every day, between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Prisoners are allowed to call

anyone

The people calling must be on an authorised list. Management verifies the call recipient and duration.

The phones are located

  • in the cells
  • in the corridors

Cells are equipped with phones in the newly-built facilities (Marche, Leuze and Beveren) and in older prisons that have been recently equipped (Jamioulx and Hasselt). All prisons are scheduled to be equipped soon.

The prison can control or restrict the phone habits of each prisoner using the calling code, and can also block certain numbers.

The cost of phone calls is in line with market prices

yes

Calling rates are marked up by at least 10% compared to outside prices.

Phone calls from cells cost eleven centimes per minute.

Calls are made from telephones managed electronically by private companies (who monitor the numbers dialled and prisoner identification). Communication expenses are at the prisoner’s charge.

Phones calls are wire tapped

yes

The use of cell phones is authorised

yes

Telephones and laptops are prohibited. Violations are punishable by 30 days of solitary confinement.

Some of the facilities are equipped with a “Prison Cloud”, a hard-wired digital platform. A desktop computer set up in each cell allows prisoners to make calls, place their canteen orders and send requests to management or the psychosocial service. This system should promote prisoner autonomy, but training for equipment use is seen to be insufficient, as is the accessible content.