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NGO criticises conditions in Brussels prison
The Belgian section of an international group campaigning for prisoners' rights has strongly criticised conditions in the prison of Saint-Gilles.
Like many other prisons in Belgium, the Saint-Gilles prison (pictured) has long suffered from overcrowding and staff shortages. The Brussels prison currently houses 860 prisoners, but was built to accommodate just 500 inmates.
At the end of last month, trade unions and prison administrators agreed on a number of changes to staff schedules so as to mitigate the effects of the overcrowding and personnel shortages.
But the International Observatory of Prisons says these interim measures have had dire consequences. “For a couple of weeks now, visits from family members, courtyard outings and phone calls are for instance only allowed every two days,” the organisation said in a statement. “The access of third-party services to the prison has moreover strongly been limited, to the extent that most people no longer know how to enter the prison.”
According to the non-governmental organisation, prisoners are moreover being denied mental health and social services, as well as access to training programmes and all other forms of in-prison activities. The measures are to remain in force until 15 October.
Written by Linda A. Thompson
Photo: Filip De Smet / Belga