In the prison of Wortel (Hoogstraten) the staff is on strike until Wednesday morning. The trigger is a case of aggression two weeks ago, in which the staff were threatened. The problem of outsiders throwing mobile phones or drugs inside the prison walls will not be solved either. According to the unions, the management reacts too weakly when detainees have to be punished.
Ronny van den Ackerveken
Today at 10:17
Wortel prison has about three hundred inmates and about one hundred and fifty staff members. “Detainees can drop off their laundry in the morning when breakfast is brought to the cells,” explains Jef Tax of the socialist trade union ACOD. “On August 22, there was one cell where they stayed in their beds and didn’t give the laundry. Ten minutes later they were banging on the door to do so, but they’d had their chance. This caused tumult in that wing and death threats were also made. Peace did not return until the four troublemakers were placed in a separate cell. There was another incident last weekend. That shows that our strike is not in vain.”
There was a meeting with the regional management on 26 August, but no decision was taken. “Wortel’s head of design has to do that, but he’s still on vacation for two weeks. We can’t wait that long. We have not felt supported by the management for some time. Detainees who cross the line usually do not receive a severe sanction. In this way, the management hopes to keep the peace in the prison, but it also has the opposite effect. The fact that we have a staff shortage of eight people does not make it any easier.”
The strike is well monitored, Monday morning only a few employees went to work. The police will take over the security of the prison in Wortel until Wednesday morning. “There are two walking courtyards at the back of the prison,” says Vincent Vanderhoven of VSOA. “During the walks, mobile phones and drugs are often thrown from outside into the fence. There is another walkway in the center of the prison complex. We have asked to do the walks there from now on, so that less can be thrown in. The management has not given permission for that.”
“We have the impression that the management in Wortel is afraid of the complaints committee. Detainees can file a complaint if they do not agree with a decision of the management. Withdrawing a measure that has been taken is easy, but the security personnel are always on the first line and are then confronted with the consequences. So the dissatisfaction is great.”