In Belgian prisons across the country there are up to two hundred detainees forced to sleep on the floor. This was brought to light through figures published by the Belgian Minister of Justice Koen Geens. Prisoners who are locked up in the cities of Antwerp, Gent and Hasselt get the worst of it.
Single cells of around ten square meters are regularly populated by three or more detainees. In that case, two sleep in a bunk bed, and number three is forced to sleep on the floor. Trade unions say this is a disgrace. The unions speak of conditions that you only see in a ‘banana republic’. According to Belgian media, Minister Geens says he is trying to find a solution as soon as possible and admits that this can’t go on for much longer. Geens also wishes to emphasize the fact that the situation is already a lot better than it used to be.
Belgium has been convicted before by the European Court of Human Rights for the poor living conditions in their prisons. Since then nothing has really changed.
In the past, Belgian detainees were placed in prisons in the Netherlands such as Tilburg. Between 2010 and 2016, the government in Belgium rented space in these prisons due to the cell shortage in their own country. By 2016 the last Belgian prisoner who served his sentence in the Netherlands left.