271 inmates moved to new prison in Belgium's largest-ever prisoner transfer

In Dendermonde, East Flanders province, 271 detainees are being transferred to a new prison since 6.30 am on Saturday, constituting the largest transfer of prisoners ever in Belgium.

A total of four cell cars will make 34 trips between the old and the new prison today. To keep everything safe, they will be flanked by a helicopter, a water cannon, an armoured vehicle, a patrol boat, a drone, eight police horses, eight drug dogs and four patrol dogs.

As the crow flies, the two buildings are barely 3 kilometres apart. However, to eliminate the risk of escape or liberation attempts, 200 correctional officers and 232 police officers are being deployed. "We have provided 7 or 8 different travel routes," said Dendermonde police chief Patrick Feys. "We are going to change things as much as possible today, to remove all risk and all routine from the job."

The move is necessary to relieve pressure on existing Belgian prisons. Belgium has a daily population of 11,359 inmates but a capacity of only 9,769. In the Flemish region, the prison system has 245 "ground sleepers" spread across eight facilities. Twenty of them slept on the floor in Dendermonde until today. Today, all prisoners will get a cell in the new building, a modern complex where 444 male inmates will be serving their sentences.

Meanwhile, 99 inmates are still sleeping on the ground in Antwerp prison today. The same applies to 75 prisoners in Ghent, 19 in Bruges, 15 in Oudenaarde and 11 in Mechelen. Turnhout prison has four prisoners without a bed, and Hasselt's women's ward has no bed for two inmates.


The new prison in Dendermonde © BELGA PHOTO NICOLAS MAETERLINCK

Justice minister Vincent Van Quickenborne visits the new prison © BELGA VIDEO JONAS D'HOLLANDER

Get updates in your mailbox

By clicking "Subscribe" I confirm I have read and agree to the Privacy Policy.

About belganewsagency.eu

Belga News Agency delivers dependable, rapid and high-quality information 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from Belgium and abroad to all Belgian media. The information covers all sectors, from politics, economics and finance to social affairs, sports and culture, not to mention entertainment and lifestyle.

Every day, our journalists and press photographers produce hundreds of photos and news stories, dozens of online information items, plus audio and video bulletins, all in both national languages. Since the end of March 2022 English has been added as a language.

For public institutions, businesses and various organisations that need reliable information, Belga News Agency also offers a comprehensive range of corporate services to meet all their communication needs.


Arduinkaai 29 1000 Brussels