Haren Prison

La réponse des partis politiques au projet de construction de la prison de Haren

As we mentioned in the last Kairos dossier« Against the Haren prison and all modern prisons », here are the answers of the PS, Ecolo, CDH, MR, to our question:


« Does your party stand for or against the project to build a mega-prison in Haren, and more broadly what is its position on projects to build new prisons? »


We let you make an idea…


- PS(1)

The question of whether or not to build a new prison in
Brussels Region is primarily the responsibility of the authorities
Federal. The already long-standing observation of the dilapidated or even unhealthy condition of
of Saint-Gilles and Forest is however undeniable. The
conditions of detention of prisoners have been repeatedly criticized
by the international authorities.

Given the advanced state of degradation of the prisons and the evolution of the standards of
detention since their construction (in the 19th century), the federal state has
made the choice to build a new prison in Haren to move
the inmates of Saint-Gilles, Forest and Berkendael by 2018–2019.

The Brussels Region is the competent authority to examine the request
planning permission for this project and will ensure compliance with the
regulations in force and the harmonious insertion of the project.
this project in the city. The environmental impact study has just been completed.
completed and the project is currently undergoing a public inquiry
on the territory of the City of Brussels.

In addition, the announcement of the decommissioning of the prisons of Saint-Gilles
and Forest is an opportunity for the Brussels Region to
to develop a new residential area and create new
facilities for the benefit of its inhabitants. A definition study has thus
was carried out at its initiative and concluded that it was possible to reallocate
prisons and to create a thousand dwellings as well as to the
At least one large school and other local facilities.

On April 2, the Brussels Government approved the conclusions
of this definition study and decided to pursue the implementation of
this project. It also confirmed its intention to acquire the
prisons and instructed the Minister-President to continue discussions with
the federal state in this sense.

In conclusion, given the opportunity that the construction of the Haren prison
constitutes in term of rehabilitation of a vast district in the c¦ur of the
Region, and considering the improvement of the conditions of detention of
the Brussels Region cannot afford to be a prisoner of war.
to welcome this project.



In the specific case of the maxi-prison project in Haren, it seems obvious to Ecolo that a decentralized prison will inevitably raise the question of accessibility by public transport, but also that of the difficulty for families, assistance services for prisoners, visitors and lawyers to access the prison easily and quickly.


It is certain that a maxi prison in Haren would totally unbalance a district already strongly subjected to many pressures and nuisances. Despite this, the neighborhood has managed to preserve an appreciable environmental heritage for the residents and it is important to preserve it as much as possible. Several issues are at stake, including the conservation of urban agriculture. Again, the scale of the project does not allow for a balance at the local or even regional level.


Other issues have also been raised: that of security and its management: which security corps would take charge of the prisoners? What is the protocol between the Federal and the police zone? Likewise, nothing seems to be defined regarding the architectural and urbanistic criteria of the new building.


The principles that we believe should guide thinking about prison policy are the following:


  • to set up and guarantee a prison policy on a human scale and in human conditions.
  • Fight against prison overcrowding
  • Guarantee the accessibility of prisons to families, lawyers and associations working with prisoners
  • develop alternatives to imprisonment rather than increase prison capacity.


According to these different criteria, the maxi-prison project in Haren is not an adequate answer in the eyes of Ecolo.


On the question of a prison policy on a « human scale », we have never ceased to stress the need to diversify alternatives to imprisonment, whether in our electoral program, in our questioning of the federal government, or in our ministerial responsibilities for assistance to prisoners and those subject to trial from 2004 to 2014.

For ECOLO, it is a question of changing the orientation and philosophy of penal matters by emphasizing prevention, credible alternatives to preventive detention, and the redefinition of a penitentiary policy. When a prison sentence cannot be avoided, it must be carried out in conditions that respect human rights, be accompanied by psycho-social supervision and be used to prepare for release in order to limit the risk of recidivism. The option defended by Ecolo is to replace the existing large penitentiary structures by smaller units, not exceeding a capacity of 150 inmates. Finally, Ecolo is opposed to any privatization of the penitentiary activity, even limited to certain services.


The fight against prison overcrowding is one of our priorities, which is why we ask to guarantee the exceptional use of preventive detention and to develop and invest in alternative measures to detention and to reserve preventive detention for the most serious cases. Getting people out of prisons must also be a priority.


In the case of Haren,


- The project defended by the federal government does not allow the necessary accessibility to the penitentiary activity — whether it is for the families, the associative environment that works on the issues of accompaniment and reintegration, or the actors of the judicial system. This project, presented by the federal government as exemplary, provides for too great a concentration of prison activity, and is too out of the way.


- The size of the prison « offer » that the Haren project represents does not correspond, for us, as for many attentive observers of this sector, to the desirable evolution of the prison policy in Belgium. Indeed, the latter should rather privilege small-scale infrastructures at the spatial level, within the society.


In short, while the prison policy in Belgium should evolve based on 3 principles: small scale, alternative and proximity, we can only deplore the fact that the maxi-prison project in Haren is the perfect counter-example.


We do not repeat here all our proposals on prison policy , they are largely found in our program for the elections of May 2014. We also refer you to the recent carte blanche (La Libre Belgique of October 2) of an Écolo president of CPAS titled: « social exclusion behind high tech prisons ». It develops an additional aspect of the current penitentiary policy: the increasing relegation of the responsibility for the care of prisoners from the Federal to the PCSWs


Nevertheless, it is urgent to provide, in the current Brussels prisons, spaces for training, education, and reception of families that are more decent and larger than the few « corridors » that currently serve as a place for these activities and meetings.


For the specific case of Brussels, Ecolo asked that the impact study also consider a smaller option with the maintenance of the prison on the Saint-Gilles site.



The question is complex because the situation of the prisons, particularly in Brussels, is particularly difficult and sensitive and the problems raised with the project of the mega-prison of Haren are numerous in an economic situation more than delicate.

1° the situation of the prisons in Brussels :

the Brussels prisons are in a deplorable state, particularly unhealthy and unsuitable for the detention or preventive detention of a human being. The prison of Forest is in this respect by far the worst example. The conditions of detention are inhumane and totally unworthy of a state governed by the rule of law. This is a unanimous observation.

Urgent action is needed to close these prisons.

The three prisons of Brussels have a total population (in excess but in reality) of more than 1200 prisoners

2° What solutions?

a) Renovation would likely be far too costly and would require closure for an extremely long period of time to ensure the renovation of these prisons

b) Therefore, one or more new constructions are undoubtedly necessary for lack of other solutions, but where and according to what formula?

c) Isn’t the construction of a new prison the opportunity to think about new structures of a much more human size, based on a real detention plan adapted to each prisoner, as instilled by the 2005 law of principles which unfortunately has not yet come into force for the main aspects relating to these individualized detention plans which must allow for a real reintegration of the prisoner upon his release and limit the risk of recidivism to a maximum?

We believe, in the CDH, that these new structures must be realized in this spirit and allow for professional activities but also training, sports and handicraft activities.

Above all, they must progressively tend, according to each individual case, to regimes that start from high security (for the most serious cases) to progressively more open regimes based on the responsibility of the prisoner and above all on the supervised preparation of his release and his return to real life.


Within the framework of a preventive or definitive detention, the places must allow the detainee to be in contact with the outside reality while guaranteeing public security. He must be supervised by multidisciplinary teams from the beginning of his detention.

It appears that a major difficulty for the prisoner, when released, is to reconnect with the gestures of everyday life and to take responsibility for them (managing a budget, household life, administrative and fiscal procedures, personal care). This preparation must be taken into account from the beginning of the detention in adapted places.

d) Establishment of the prison in Haren :

  • In addition to the environmental issues, the implementation of a mega-prison raises the following questions: 
    • The distance between the courthouse of Brussels and the prison of Haren: with the difficulties of circulation in Brussels, this distance will cause slowness of displacement and important costs related to these displacements and to the problems of safety which are related to it. 
      • Either the inmates will have to be moved to the palace for the substantive hearings and this will entail significant costs
      • Either the detainees who have to appear before the council chamber will appear in a room provided for this purpose in the prison and the problem will arise for magistrates, clerks, public prosecutors and lawyers who will have to travel in traffic with the problems related to the files that will follow.
      • The lawyers will have difficulty organizing their hearings both in the courtroom (at the courthouse) and in the council chamber (at the prison) unless special schedules are arranged for this reason.
    • Visits by both families and lawyers will be made more difficult by distance and non-operational public transportation
  • The cost of the operation: even if the State does not disburse funds for the construction of the prison (private companies), the rents that the State will have to disburse for many years will not allow a healthy management of the budget of justice.


This mega-prison project must be a unique opportunity to rethink the question of the prison on a human scale, in small modules and above all thought out on a basis that puts forward the preparation of the prisoner for his release and his reintegration into social life by reducing the risks of recidivism by maximizing the processes of reintegration, vocational training, multidisciplinary supervision and humane conditions of detention However, there is an urgent need to find solutions for the Brussels prisons.


- MR(2)

Dear Sir,


We have received your e‑mail dated March 31 and thank you for it.


As you know, the Reform Movement has always advocated a responsible and credible prison policy.

The credibility of a repressive system depends on its capacity to effectively and rapidly execute the sentences pronounced by the criminal courts. With this in mind, the current government has taken a series of concrete initiatives.


Prison overcrowding is a major obstacle to an effective and coherent policy for the execution of sentences. Its perverse effects are well known: late execution of sentences, non-execution of short sentences, early releases, provisional releases, interruptions of sentences while waiting for available places or electronic bracelets, and the impossibility of setting up a real detention plan contributing to the convicted person’s responsibility, to his reintegration, to the awareness of the offence committed and to the reparation of the damage caused by the offence.


In order to combat prison overcrowding, the government has continued to implement the multi-year action plan to increase prison capacity and renovate prison buildings — the Masterplan. This plan provides for the construction of 2,217 places between 2012 and 2017. In 2014, three new prisons including Marche-en-Famenne, Leuze and Beveren were established, providing 1,000 additional places. However, following evaluations carried out by the General Directorate of Penitentiaries of the FPS Justice, it appears that despite the full implementation of the Masterplan, a deficit of places will remain due to the increase in the prison population.


The Reform Movement therefore proposes to continue the implementation of the Masterplan and — if the budgetary context allows it or according to financing modalities to be determined — to concretize a Masterplan Prison III in order to face the prison overcrowding estimated by the General Directorate of Penitentiaries, to allow a real modern classification of the prisoners and consequently to set up a real diversification of the penitentiary systems.


Hoping to have been able to answer your questions and remaining at your entire disposal, please accept, dear Sir, the assurance of my best regards.


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Notes et références
  1. Signalée comme émanant de Rudi Vervoort.
  2. Signée par Olivier Chastel

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