Attack in Liège: prison leave system under fire

After a man on leave from prison shot two policewomen and a man in downtown Liège, Belgium is discussing whether the prison leave system should be abolished. The presumed attacker is thought to have been radicalised by Islamists in prison. Commentators call for more resocialisation measures - including prison leave.

Open/close all quotes
Le Vif / L'Express (BE) /

Releasing prisoners is in society's interest, the chamber of French and German-speaking lawyers in Belgium, argues in Le Vif/L'Express that the rules on parole for prisoners must be respected:

“It is crucial to remember that release privileges have been given much thought by the decisionmaking authorities (prison directors, psychologists, social workers and prison administration). It is in the interest of all society that we do what we can to prepare for the return to society of those who have strayed from the fold. Denying this essential right would amount to a major contradiction. The immediate effect would be to create individuals with no prospects whatsoever, who have no option but to seek refuge in violence and total rejection of the rules that govern life in society. And that is exactly what we all are trying to avoid.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Prisons are hotbeds of radicalism

For De Morgen the debate on the prison system in Belgium is heading in the wrong direction:

“Our prisons do not adequately prepare people for a new start. On the contrary: they're hotbeds of radicalism, addiction, revenge plans and gang violence. No wonder attempts at reintegration fail. ... Which brings us to the prison paradox: as an understandable reaction to the atrocities in Liège, calls are growing louder for a policy that will only put more human time bombs behind bars. The rational recommendation of making additional resources available for prisons and reintegration programmes doesn't stand a chance against the emotional calls for stricter punishment.”

Le Quotidien (LU) /

Fear spreading in society

Many people feel powerless at the prospect of the release of former IS fighters, Le Quotidien warns:

“The situation is worrying, even if this repeat offender 'had already been let out on a pass around twenty times before and had always behaved well,' as Belga [news agency] has quoted Belgian Justice Minister Koen Geens as saying. For many years now, the justice systems of numerous European states have sentenced terrorists who had fought for the Islamic State and wanted to commit attacks. Some of these radicalised persons are now set to be released, notably in France, and concern is growing among the population. Fear and mistrust are increasing and threaten to transform our societies.”