For the first time, prisons are operating with requisitioned staff

For the first time, prisons are operating with requisitioned staff
For the first time, prisons are operating with requisitioned staff

1. What does the minimum service in prisons mean?

“In the past, the police were deployed during a strike. But it was mainly about maintaining security,” says Tom Van Wynsberge, spokesperson for the Prison Service at the FPS Justice. In 2019, then Minister of Justice Koen Geens (CD&V) changed this: the new penitentiary law describes the rights of detainees that must also be guaranteed during a strike.

These mean that prisoners can walk in the open air once a day for at least an hour, receive a decent meal, shower at least twice a week and speak to a doctor or their lawyer if desired. They should be able to go to court for their own trial and be visited by family or friends once a week.

2. What exactly does the so-called model plan entail?

“To guarantee those rights, every prison has a model plan: it states exactly how many and which staff are needed to provide those services,” says Van Wynsberge. Van Wynsberge cannot say exactly how many staff are involved per prison: “Every prison has a different infrastructure, a different operation.”

The unions find the model plans of some prisons “very ambitious,” says Alain Blancke, national representative of the Christian union ACV. “In addition, the staff shortage in some small prisons is so great that they continuously operate at such a staffing level.”

3. How is the minimum service organized?

Everyone who works in the prison must give notice at least 72 hours in advance whether they will strike or not, and in the case of a strike of indefinite duration this is even two weeks in advance. As soon as it is clear how many people are short, the provincial governor can requisition prison staff, if necessary by having the police visit staff members. It is not known whether the latter has already happened.

Since the strike started on Monday evening at 10 p.m., staff have been requisitioned to fill 134 shifts for the Flemish prisons for Monday evening and Tuesday. It is not yet clear how many staff were requisitioned on Wednesday.

Prison staff being requisitioned has never happened before, spokesperson Van Wynsberge confirms. Because the strike was announced for an indefinite period, Minister of Justice Paul Van Tigchelt (Open VLD) immediately decided to call for action. “Normally this is only possible after 48 hours. But because there is no end date for the strike, this can be done immediately,” says Van Wynsberge. It is precisely this immediate demand that has gone wrong with the unions. The fact that Van Tigchelt put the issue on the table last Thursday was the reason for them to leave the negotiating table.

4. What about the rest of Belgium?

Staff was also requisitioned in Wallonia on Tuesday, but to a very limited extent. It involved three people. In the prisons of Haren and Sint-Gillis it is still the police who provide assistance to the prisons. There are currently about twenty officers. The question is how tenable this is during an indefinite strike. The unions will meet again on Thursday with Minister Van Tigchelt.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: time prisons operating requisitioned staff


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