“It would be better to build 100 prisons for 10 people each”

HISTORY OF RESCALED

The ideas underpinning the RESCALED movement were developed in Belgium against the backdrop of a prison system in crisis. Ever since the 1990s, a pervasive sense of failure has surrounded Belgian prisons. They are overcrowded, officers regularly go on strikes and quality services are lacking. Such conditions are hardly conducive to decent reintegration trajectories. Hans Claus had been critical of the system since the beginning of his career as prison governor in the late 1980s, but only gradually did he come to see a way forward. In 2008, the government announced it would build Haren Prison – a new institution with 1000 places. Hans responded swiftly. “It would be better to build 100 prisons for 10 people each”, he argued. The movement for detention houses was born.

HISTORY OF RESCALED

The ideas underpinning the RESCALED movement were developed in Belgium against the backdrop of a prison system in crisis. Ever since the 1990s, a pervasive sense of failure has surrounded Belgian prisons. They are overcrowded, officers regularly go on strikes and quality services are lacking. Such conditions are hardly conducive to decent reintegration trajectories. Hans Claus had been critical of the system since the beginning of his career as prison governor in the late 1980s, but only gradually did he come to see a way forward. In 2008, the government announced it would build Haren Prison – a new institution with 1000 places. Hans responded swiftly. “It would be better to build 100 prisons for 10 people each”, he argued. The movement for detention houses was born.

HISTORY

The ideas underpinning the RESCALED movement were developed in Belgium against the backdrop of a prison system in crisis. Ever since the 1990s, a pervasive sense of failure has surrounded Belgian prisons. They are overcrowded, officers regularly go on strikes and quality services are lacking. Such conditions are hardly conducive to decent reintegration trajectories. Hans Claus had been critical of the system since the beginning of his career as prison governor in the late 1980s, but only gradually did he come to see a way forward. In 2008, the government announced it would build Haren Prison – a new institution with 1000 places. Hans responded swiftly. “It would be better to build 100 prisons for 10 people each”, he argued. The movement for detention houses was born.

Journalists picked up on the idea, and so did the Belgian League for Human Rights. Multidisciplinary working groups were established, with architects, psychologists, social workers, journalists, formerly incarcerated people, policymakers, judges and others. All to elaborate the initial idea. And thus, the three pillars of the detention house concept were defined: (1) small in scale, (2) differentiated in security level, services and activities, and (3) integrated in the community. In an interview with the Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, Hans explained his vision like this: “Each ‘house’ – located in a regular neighbourhood (urban or rural) – holds around ten people in detention. Some houses are ‘closed’ with high security, some are ‘closed’ with low security, and some are ‘open’. As far as possible, work and vocational training takes place in the outside world – with each detention house bringing ‘added value’ to the neighbourhood (dogs refuge, cycle repair workshop, social theatre, art workshop, vegetable shop etc), thus ‘stimulating the mutual involvement and responsibility of incarcerated people and the wider society’”.

By that time, Hans was no longer on his own, but had co-founded an NGO called ‘De Huizen’ (The Houses) with over fifty members and ten partner organizations. De Huizen worked hard at gaining the interest of the public and politicians. It received media attention, built a strong and influential network, involved many NGOs and academics, and established excellent relationships with policymakers. But its appeal was not limited to Belgium. Soon, De Huizen began to attract attention abroad. It was mentioned as one of the ‘best and promising practices’ in the Social Rehabilitation Report of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), invited to several international conferences, and asked to participate in the Innovate2empower programme of Somos Más Europe.

Gradually, the message of De Huizen garnered international support. People all over Europe saw that detention houses were a much-needed way forward for faltering prison systems. On 30 October 2017, Hans Claus, Marjan Gryson, Ronald De Meyer, Gert Jan Slump and Jaap Brandligt initiated a 24-hour meeting to launch the concept internationally. Together with FARAPEJ (France) and APAC Portugal, De Huizen and a number of Dutch organisations laid the foundation of what would soon be RESCALED. On 10 April 2019, RESCALED was launched with an international conference hosted by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), attended by 190 participants from 11 countries. Within a decade, an idea had become a movement.

history

Defining the concept

Journalists picked up on the idea, and so did the Belgian League for Human Rights. Multidisciplinary working groups were established, with architects, psychologists, social workers, journalists, formerly incarcerated people, policymakers, judges and others. All to elaborate the initial idea. And thus, the three pillars of the detention house concept were defined: (1) small in scale, (2) differentiated in security level, services and activities, and (3) integrated in the community. In an interview with the Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, Hans explained his vision like this: “Each ‘house’ – located in a regular neighbourhood (urban or rural) – holds around ten people in detention. Some houses are ‘closed’ with high security, some are ‘closed’ with low security, and some are ‘open’. As far as possible, work and vocational training takes place in the outside world – with each detention house bringing ‘added value’ to the neighbourhood (dogs refuge, cycle repair workshop, social theatre, art workshop, vegetable shop etc), thus ‘stimulating the mutual involvement and responsibility of incarcerated people and the wider society’”.

History

De Huizen

By that time, Hans was no longer on his own, but had co-founded an NGO called ‘De Huizen’ (The Houses) with over fifty members and ten partner organizations. De Huizen worked hard at gaining the interest of the public and politicians. It received media attention, built a strong and influential network, involved many NGOs and academics, and established excellent relationships with policymakers. But its appeal was not limited to Belgium. 

Soon, De Huizen began to attract attention abroad. It was mentioned as one of the ‘best and promising practices’ in the Social Rehabilitation Report of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), invited to several international conferences, and asked to participate in the Innovate2empower programme of Somos Más Europe.

History

Becoming a movement

Gradually, the message of De Huizen garnered international support. People all over Europe saw that detention houses were a much-needed way forward for faltering prison systems. 

On 30 October 2017, Hans Claus, Marjan Gryson, Ronald De Meyer, Gert Jan Slump and Jaap Brandligt initiated a 24-hour meeting to launch the concept internationally. Together with FARAPEJ (France) and APAC Portugal, De Huizen and a number of Dutch organizations laid the foundation of what would soon be RESCALED. 

On 10 April 2019, RESCALED was launched with an international conference hosted by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), attended by 190 participants from 11 countries. Within a decade, an idea had become a movement.