In application of an Interstate Convention concluded in October 2009, the Dutch authorities make available to Belgium the premises of Tilburg Prison and its staff, for the purpose of detaining persons serving final sentences imposed by Belgian courts. By this means, the Belgium authorities are attempting to combat the overcrowding which currently affects their country’s penitentiary system while waiting for the results of the “Master Plan for a more humane prison infrastructure”.
The CPT delegation received no allegations of ill-treatment of prisoners by prison staff at Tilburg Prison. On the contrary, the great majority of inmates emphasised the professional attitude and respect shown to them by the prison staff.
However, the information gathered indicated clearly that the prison was experiencing a serious problem of inter-prisoner violence. This problem was, in particular, linked to the high occupancy rate in what were formerly soldiers' dormitories, with eight beds in each, and the mixing together of different categories of sentenced prisoners in this accommodation. In its report, the CPT recommends that priority be given to gradually reducing the number of beds in the dormitories.
Regarding activities, the CPT noted that all prisoners were employed in a workshop (20 hours per week). However, possibilities for educational activities and vocational training were extremely limited.
Difficulties were also observed in communications between staff and certain prisoners due to language barriers. In this respect, le Committee has in particular underlined that prisoners who are the subject of a disciplinary procedure should be able to read the documentation and related decisions in a language which they understand.
The report also stresses a number of practical difficulties in relation to medical care and contact of prisoners with the outside world.
The CPT’s visit report, which has been published at the request of the Belgian and Dutch authorities, is available in English and French on the Committee's website at: www.cpt.coe.int