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Volunteers test new Belgian prison before it opens

Volunteers test new Belgian prison before it opens
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For the first time Belgium is adopting a scheme that’s been tried elsewhere when a new prison has been built; inviting justice system professionals to spend a weekend posing as inmates before the prison opens for business proper.

Lawyers, judges, wardens, journalists, even Belgium’s director of prisons got a taste of life behind bars, while Beveren prison got a chance to test-run its systems. Just as well, as some failed.

“We underestimated the influence of technology on the daily scheme of the prison. Yesterday it started already with the discharging of a visitor, a prison cell that wouldn’t open, and a lock that we had to drill out, as well as intercom systems that didn’t work thoroughly, etc,” said Beveren prison’s Els Van Herck.

Each visitor was given a role to play; suicidal, drug addict, rebel, or whatever, and then went through the whole routine of admission, strip search, processing, showers, canteen and lights out. The wardens had to react accordingly, with no prior information.