Belgium continues to build large-scale prisons that are based on a 19th century model. These new prisons are larger than ever. While Belgium used to be a pioneer and an example of a constitutional state that protects its citizens, it now lags behind with a prison system that does not do justice, neither to the incarcerated people, nor to the victims and taxpayers. I am an incarcerated person and I read that each year millions of euros are spent on prisons. Yet, in my opinion, this system has no purpose and disregards people’s needs. It reduces human beings to mere numbers and is therefore not fit for today’s society.
In today’s society, gender identities are a ‘hot topic’ and heavily discussed. People are not born as boys or girls but they are considered boys or girls, and people who identify themselves differently should still be tolerated and accepted in this society. Sometimes I think: I am not born as a criminal but I am considered as one. What if I were considered a boy who did not receive enough attention? In prison, I have become a citizen that does not fit so easily into society, and yet, I will soon return to society. Instead of preparing this return, a prison tends to push incarcerated people, and often also their partners and children, towards social exclusion and economic poverty.
In the meantime, alarming situations are happening within these prison walls. I am surprised to see that proper support is lacking in a prison facility in which people, like myself, are serving long sentences. Support for addiction to medication or drugs, for instance, is necessary. When people with additions enter prison, they drown even more in their problems and their debts keep building up. People who are caught with drugs are not supervised and supported. They are on their own. What does exist, however, is a repressive approach: being transferred from an open section to a closed one, or put into isolation. This is no solution. It is sad that the facility itself is failing to provide the necessary tools. In search of solutions, different departments and governments are mainly pointing and looking to one another, without offering help.
In sum, we may ask ourselves if this outdated mentality is still justifiable? Is it acceptable to continue to financially invest in a state facility that does not offer solutions? Let us innovate and rethink the goals of detention. Let us be ground-breaking and keep up with the present and the future and invest in detention houses. In such houses, people are not restricted in their personal growth. This is crucial because such fundamental restrictions take everything away from people, who are then left with nothing when they return to society. In such houses, incarcerated people gain a new sense of responsibility and a close connection with society. This is lacking in today’s prisons.