Jails. In Belgium, 55 magistrates are locked up to experience the lives of prisoners


Fifty-five volunteer magistrates were locked up this Saturday in a prison in the Brussels region to experience the lives of detainees until Sunday, Belgian Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne announced in a press release.

The magistrates arrived at 9 a.m. in the new prison of Haren, a new establishment with a capacity of 1,190 prisoners which is due to open its doors on September 30, explained a spokeswoman for the prison administration.

They will be treated as real detainees until the end of the operation scheduled for Sunday at 4 p.m., she said.

“As realistic as possible”

“Judges obviously know how things are in a prison, but experiencing it for themselves gives them a unique opportunity that can help them pass sentences with full knowledge of the facts,” said Federal Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne, quoted in the press release.

The operation will also allow prison staff to prepare for the upcoming opening of this new type of establishment « equipped with small living units and developing a modern approach », added the Flemish official, a member of the Liberal Party. Open Vld.

“The participating magistrates – criminal judges, investigating judges, prosecutors (…) – volunteered. They … will have to follow the orders and instructions of the prison staff. The goal is to make incarceration as realistic as possible,” the statement said.

« They will not be able to use their mobile phone, but will have the possibility of receiving family visits, just like real prisoners.

They can go out anytime

Magistrates follow the normal daily schedule for prisoners, eat the same meals and have the same compulsory activities. They will, among other things, be employed in the kitchen and laundry. At 10 p.m. the lights go out,” the ministry said.

If they have « difficulty enduring this stay in prison », or for any other reason, the magistrates have the possibility of interrupting the experiment at any time.

« This immersion offers magistrates who sentence people to prison the opportunity to experience what deprivation of liberty means », explained Rudy Van de Voorde, Director General of Penitentiary Establishments, also quoted in the press release.


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