BELGIUM - CENTRAL GOVERNMENT / OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH (OSH) / STAFFING LEVELS
Sector - CENTRAL GOVERNMENT
Theme - OSH / STAFFING LEVEL
In the prison sector in Belgium, the Federal Department of Justice has developed two new initiatives on TPVH in order to support the implementation of the existing Conflict and Aggression policy, which originated in an initiative 20 years ago. In 2021, the minister decided to introduce a new initiative consisting of two pillars; one initiative is focused on personnel and the institution itself, the other initiative is focused on prisoners. An institutional analysis of every prison involves a questionnaire and focus groups with prison personnel. The aim is to develop specific innovative actions and measures that are tailored to different prison settings, along with general actions for all prisons. Building on the current policy and guidance and training provided to prison personnel on handling conflict and aggression, the project aims to evolve towards a change in prison culture at all levels, including management, and to stimulate a positive prison climate. Initial findings suggest that staff underline the problem of staffing shortages and prison overcrowding, and the project aims to isolate the issues that the ministry can have some control over. One element is to look at what is expected of personnel. A new way of operating is to have two types of prison officers the first is assigned to communicate and positive dialogue to build trust, a second type of prison officer takes the role to intervene and address problems. A further issue is to invest in tools to build or restore relationships of trust, for example, through mediation. Important issues are raised about how mediation can be used as a tool to address conflict and aggression. Although trade unions are involved in the consultations during the project, trade unions are not directly involved in the development of new policy measures. Further issues are raised about the need for much greater investment in daily activities, although unions are concerned about the implementation of measures without additional staffing measures. The project is raising important issues about the expectations from the ministry to recruit staff based on these new expectations. Pillar on prisoners, aims to include courses for prisoners on how to manage emotions, which will be piloted by the end of November in 8 prisons where pilots are running (total 35 prisons), then extend after to all prisons.