Bart Debie writes in to report about his day in prison, revealing the workings of life on "the inside": unorganized, chaotic, unpleasant, multi-lingual, cross-cultural, but for this former police superintendent and member of Vlaams Belang, mercifully brief. (Note: Belgium is uneasily composed of French and Dutch speaking peoples.)
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Yesterday I went to the “Vorst” prison at about 9.00am. When I arrived I immediately discovered that hardly anyone spoke any Dutch. French was clearly the language to know. After I handed over my “gevangenisbriefje”--that is the official name and means “little prison letter”--I had to translate the reason for my conviction into the French language myself as the clerk was not able to understand Dutch. Can you imagine this? An official letter from the Ministry of Justice and I have to translate it myself. As I’m not al that familiar with the French judicial terminology, I had a problem. Luckily there was a police-officer who was bringing in another client that could do the translation for me; if not, I could have waited till the change-of-shift till a Dutch-speaking person could “enroll” me!
After that they locked me up in a small prison cell. I think it was about 2 by 3 meters. There was no window, it had an open toilet (which was disgusting) and it was very warm in there. I was allowed to keep my book I brought with me. (I am reading an interesting book about the relationship between crime and the media.) After a few minutes the prison guard–a Belgian man with clearly Moroccan roots--saw that I was reading and he switched of the lights. There I was sitting for more than 3 hours in the total dark. I banged on the door two times but nobody came. After these three hours the lights went on and they put a Moroccan man in the cell with me.
He told me he was convicted for beating up female police officers. That was a very nice roommate for a former police superintendent ! Anyway, he was not aggressive at all although he knew perfectly well who I was. He told me that he couldn’t live without his Hashish and showed me how he taped a piece of hashish under his left foot. I then saw how easy it is to smuggle drugs into a Belgian prison. An hour later they put a second Moroccan man into my prison cell. He was arrested during an armed robbery. He almost didn’t speak a word. Shortly after that they put a third man in the small cell. We were now 4 inmates in that small room ! The last one was a 50-year old man from Kosovo, who lives nearby Brussels in a town called Asse. He was arrested with an international restraining order from Italy. He was wanted for cocaine smuggling, human trafficking and prostitution. All the inmates had been several times in that prison and they told me they were surprised to see the name “Bart Debie” on the billboard just outside the prison cell. “Normally we only see Mohammed or Rashid or something like that,” they told me.
At about 6.30 pm. I was released from prison. I was sitting in that very small, smelly cell for more than 8 hours. Now I am a free man, but soon I will get a visit from the assistant of the Belgian justice department who will provide me with a form of electronic house-arrest. It isn’t over yet, but at least I am out of that horrible place where human rights are just a joke.