Strike in Belgium's prisons

More than two weeks into the prison guard strike in Belgium the government plans to send in the army to cater to the inmates' basic needs. Commentators complain of the degrading prison conditions and the failures of the Belgian state.

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Mediapart (FR) /

Disgraceful conditions at the heart of Europe

Now in its third week, the prison guard strike has left inmates stuck in their cells around the clock. Philosopher Daniel Salvatore Schiffer criticises this state of affairs in his blog with Mediapart:

“People being treated like wild animals: at the heart of our supposedly civilised and democratic Europe these are the horrible, shameful and scandalous conditions which hundreds of men and women are forced to endure in Belgium's prisons. They have been denied the most basic rights. ... Men and women are cooped up day and night, sometimes three to a cell, unable to take a shower or to go to the toilet. And worse still: with the arrival of warm weather the lack of fresh air in these cramped cells is literally suffocating.”

De Standaard (BE) /

Belgian state weak and ineffectual

The fact that soldiers are being sent in to cover for the prison guards during the strike highlights the failure of the Belgian state, De Standard believes:

“How can the government of one of the richest countries in the world be so weak and ineffectual? Granted, our debt burden from the past is also colossal. The problem is that the money wasn't spent on upgrading or maintaining the infrastructure. It was spent on consumption, minimising federal tensions and attempts to boost competitiveness. And despite the historically low interest rates, we have not been able to reduce the mountain of debt. So we're not only paying the price for past mistakes, we go on making new mistakes on a daily basis. ... The big problem that no one wants to see is just how ineffective the entire state is. Rather than curing old Belgium's diseases, all the reforms have only made them worse.”