An empty Dutch jail is to be filled with at least 500 inmates from Belgium which is looking beyond its boundaries to solve a prison overcrowding problem.
Belgium will rent cells at the Tilburg jail, just over the border in the Netherlands, at a cost of 30 million euros a year. A deal, signed by both governments, must still be approved by the countries’ respective parliaments. If that is done, the scheme will start next year. But there are complications, as Prison Director Frank Schouters makes clear. “We will have to discuss visiting hours. In Belgium, detainees can have visitors three times a week. In the Netherlands, it is only once a week. So we need to reorganise things,” he said. Belgium has a prison capacity of around 8,000 but currently detains more than 10,000 people, hence the frustration of prison staff who have been taking strike action. Authorities recognise that overcrowding heightens tensions in the prison system and plans are in place to build several new jails in a bid to ease the pressure.