Daily life

All prisoners are entitled to spend at least one hour a day in the open air

yes

Prisoners are allowed at least one hour in the yard per day, sometimes several hours, in facilities for convicted prisoners. Some prison yards have a security net to prevent escapes.  Participation in an activity (course, training, work) automatically replaces access to the yard.

The prison service offers activities to prisoners

yes

Activities are organised by outside associations, dependent on each establishment. The options are limited.
Penalised inmates are often deprived of taking part in activities.

There are designated places for physical activities and sports

yes

Number and percentage of prisoners who participate in sport activities

36.6 % (3,700)
i
2017
/ Federal Public Service Justice

The activities offered at different prisons can be grouped into several categories:

  • Culture and sport (plastic arts, cinema, writing, reading, music, gardening, individual and group sport, theatre)
  • Training and education (general and vocational training, information and guidance, IT, languages, driving license, first aid)
  • Post-release (support for a career plan, information sessions, reintegration platforms)
  • Psychosocial (activities for children and parents, support groups, hotlines, volunteer visitors, psychological support, social support)
  • Health (group activities, information sessions, prevention)

There are no figures for the total number of prisoners participating in activities. The number fluctuates and depends on numerous factors (number of officers present, visits, yard, movements within the prison, etc.).

Number and percentage of prisoners who work

40 %

i

The division of work is organised by the prison administration. Assigning a job is a way for management to reward the good behaviour of an inmate. Its withdrawal is frequently used as a punishment.
Prisoners can sometimes wait more than three months for a job that they usually do not choose.

Work is carried out in three ways:

  • with the prison labour authority (maintenance of facilities, making grates for cell windows, etc.);
  • by section (kitchen, laundry, cleaning, etc.);
  • for outside companies, often the most profitable. The work is carried out in the workshop or occasionally in the cell.

Work in prison is not subject to labour legislation.

Maximum daily/weekly working hours are set, including at least one day of rest

yes

The number of hours worked is unpredictable. Almost 45% of prisoners say that they are only informed the previous evening of the hours they will work the next day.

Prisoners are paid for their work

yes

Salaries are

significantly below the national minimum wage

The average wage is one euro an hour, and can go up to three euro. Payment varies depending on the type of work performed, the qualifications of the worker, the number of hours worked and the type of facility.
The minimum hourly rate varies from € 0.62 to € 0.79 for people working in the prison (general services). For work carried out on behalf of private companies, the rate is one euro per hour.
People employed in the general service receive between €80 and €150 each month. The monthly income in the workshops is €150 to €300.

Prisoners are paid on a piecework basis

yes

Their income is subject to social contributions

yes

Health and safety standards applicable outside are respected in prison

yes

The Belgian state never implemented the 12 January 2005 law concerning planned detention. Training programs are not part of a reintegration process, and are organised by associations external to the facilities.
Education and training, as well as the organisation of cultural activities, are entrusted to the linguistic communities in charge of education in Belgium.

Education is provided

in some facilities

Education is available for all prisoners

yes

Access criteria are set by prison staff, sometimes arbitrarily, in the form of a reward.

Prisoners are allowed to pass diplomas and entry examinations

yes

Number and percentage of prisoners enrolled in vocational training

4 % (400)
i
2017
/ Federal Public Service Justice

Vocational training is provided

yes

Vocational training is available for all prisoners

yes

Prisoners have access to computers

in some facilities

Work and training are often competing programs, in which case inmates prefer work, which provides a wage. Training is dependent on the transfer of inmates from one prison to another.

Prisoners have access to a television

yes, by rental

They have access to a TV in their cell.
The devices and subscription must be purchased by the prisoners. Establishment supervisors oblige some prisoners with a television to rent it to another inmate. The rental cost varies by prison, and can be as much as €20 per month.

Prisoners have access to a radio

yes

They have access to a radio in their cell.

Prisoners have access to the press

yes

The prison service allows access to Internet

in some facilities

The three new prisons in Beveren, Leuze and Marche have an in-cell system called Prison Cloud that provides access to an internal network.

The most prevalent religions are Catholic, Protestant and Muslim.

Prisoners are free to practice their religion and follow their beliefs

in most cases

Security reasons are often cited as a reason for limiting the access of chaplains.
Prisoners of Muslim faith have suffered since the terrorist attacks in Paris (2015).

Dedicated places of worship are available

no

Visitation requests are done in writing and are dropped in a dedicated box. Prisoners can have visitors in their cells, even when the prisoner is under disciplinary sanction.

There are chaplains in the prisons

varies according to faith

The number of chaplains is insufficient. The presence of advisers from the Foundation for Moral Assistance to Prisoners varies widely between establishments, due to geographic and organisational factors.

The prison service remunerates the chaplains

yes

Chaplains have been funded by the State since 2007. Catholic chaplains receive the largest number of grants.

Individuals or organisations from the outside are allowed to participate in prison activities

yes

Since 2009, Wallonia and Brussels have shown the desire to optimise and coordinate the range of outside services offered to prisons. The Cooperation of active associations in prison (CAAP) is designated as the official representative of the non-profit sector in prison, within the Wallonia-Brussels Federation. In June 2017, the CAAP had 51 member associations.
To date, the CAAP has no equivalent in Flanders. The “Rode Antraciet” oversees sports and socio-cultural activities in this region and in the Dutch-speaking part of Brussels.

Authorisations for external actors to take part in prison activities are provided by

management of the facility

External services to assist litigants are organised and allocated differently between Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia.
Five bilingual, non-specialised services are active in the city’s three prisons. In addition, there is a non-specialised service approved and subsidised by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.

Fifteen specialised services (addictions, schooling, socio-professional reintegration) are also active in the three Brussels prisons.

The Flemish community has eleven “Centrum Algemeen Welzijswerk (CAW)”, the equivalent of social services. A CAW representative is appointed to each prison facility in Flanders and Brussels. The role of the CAW is similar to the general social services of the Common Community Commission (COCOM) and the Wallonia-Brussels Federation.

There are 14 active inmate assistance departments in the French-speaking community of Wallonia. Volunteer visitors are also present in the facilities. Brussels has 35 authorised visitors for Saint-Gilles, Forest and Berkendael. Belgium’s association of French-speaking prison visitors is active in Wallonia, and has a Dutch-speaking counterpart for Flanders.

The five bilingual non-specialised services are approved and subsidised by the Brussels Community Commission.

Prisoners are allowed to make use of financial resources

yes

Each prisoner has a personal account. Accounts can be funded with work wages, deposits from relatives, or any type of pension received from the outside, of which only half is accessible.

Financial resources are accessible

through a personal account

Destitute prisoners receive financial or in-kind support

yes

Inmates without financial resources have recourse to the social commissary. They receive between 5 and 10 euros per month in the Brussels prisons, and must repay these amounts as soon as they have the money.
Commissary prices are taxed by 10%. This solidarity contribution is compulsory and is used to set up an assistance fund for prisoners without resources. In principle, destitute prisoners receive a minimal aid in the form of telephone credit, tobacco and hygiene products (razors, soap, toilet paper, etc.).

At the Saint-Gilles prison, for each beneficiary this tax represents one euro of call credit per week and five euros for the cafeteria per month.

Prisoners are allowed to discuss matters relating to their conditions of imprisonment

yes

Some prisoners have a seat within the consultative bodies of certain facilities (Andenne, Ittre, Jamioulx). They file complaints and requests from their fellow prisoners, and play a mediating role.

Prisoners have the right of association

yes

Prisoners have the right to vote

yes

The longest prison sentences may be associated with a loss of voting rights. In practice, this right is difficult to access for prisoners, who are often unaware of it. Voting takes place by proxy. Voting is by proxy.

Prisoners host a radio program in just a few prisons (Lantin, for example).

Letter-writing contact with the media is subject to the general rules of correspondence. A direct interview with a journalist is subject to authorisation by the Minister of Justice. Problematic cases of refusal are not reported.