Chair: Vincent Eechaudt

Experiencing and providing care in prisons and forensic settings

Building: D
Room: 01


Author: Vincent Eechaudt, Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy, Ghent University

Title: The Organisation of Health Care in Belgian Prisons: Selected Issues
Belgium is considering to reorganize its prison health care by shifting the responsibility for prison health care from the Ministry of Justice to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Public Health. This reform should provide a solution to the problems identified by national and international studies, reports and courts. To prepare this reform and ensure prison health care conforms with international and national standards, a study was requested on Belgian health care services in prison. The study explores the challenges the prison health care services face, the needs of the prisoners, the prison administration and the health care providers, as well as possible solutions. While the main study was conducted by the Belgian Health Care Knowledge Centre (KCE), several aspects were further outsourced to Ghent University. Those will be given special attention. This talk will discuss, amongst other, the health care problems in the prison population, equivalence of care in prison and in free society, the continuity of health care before and after imprisonment, the limited choice of health care providers and accessibility of health care, complaints procedures for prisoners when they feel mistreated, patients’ rights, independence of medical staff and medical secrecy.
Keywords: health care, prisons, Belgium
Author: Ciska Wittouck, Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy, Ghent University

Title: Experiences of Male Criminally Irresponsible Offenders Unlawfully Detained in Flemish Prisons
In Belgium, offenders can be subjected to an internment measure if they are deemed criminally irresponsible due to a mental illness. This indeterminate measure is regarded as a safety measure, not a punishment, serving two goals; protection of society and treatment of the offender. Termination of this indeterminate measure is possible when the mental state of the offender is regarded as sufficiently improved to guarantee safety of society. However, in Belgium and especially in Flanders, the development of a forensic psychiatric care network was only initiated in 2001 with the implementation of three medium secure wards, and a high secure forensic psychiatric centre only opened in 2014, As a result, a significant amount of interned offenders were and still are unlawfully detained in Flemish prisons. Belgium has been severely criticized and convicted for violations of the European Convention on Human Rights due to the imprisonment of internees without providing them with appropriate psychiatric care. In the present study fourteen male interned offenders residing in Flemish prisons were interviewed about how they experience the interment measure, the detention in prison, and prison staff. During the presentation, the results of this qualitative research study will be discussed with a special focus on care services and relationships, procedural justice, recovery and desistance. Implications for practice and future research will also be discussed.
Keywords: forensic care, prisoner, experience, internment, mentally ill, treatment
Author: Anouk Mertens, Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy, Ghent University

Title: Experiences of Female Mentally Ill Offenders in Prison and in Forensic Settings in Flanders
While the law states that interned people should receive care, mentally ill offenders in Flanders are often held in prisons. Due to their specific profile and needs, they experience their imprisonment differently than regular prisoners. Adjustment to imprisonment is assumed to be a result of prison-specific characteristics, according to the deprivation model, while the importation model states that the pre-prison experiences and characteristics of the prisoners can affect their reactions to an imprisonment. Studies on these models are rarely made in a population of mentally ill offenders. This study aims to explore the prison experiences of female prisoners who are not criminally responsible on account of mental illness (NCRMD). A qualitative study, consisting of in-depth interviews with 50 female detainees NCRMD, was executed. After a one year and half follow-up period, 40 women were willing to be interviewed again in the setting they were staying at that point in time; in prisons, in secure forensic settings, in psychiatric hospitals and as outpatients. This presentation explores the results of the follow-up interviews with females NCRMD in prison and forensic settings. It highlights their subjective experiences with regard to the pains related to care they’re experiencing in the two settings. The presentation indicates differences and similarities between these deprivation themes and focuses on improvements or impairments after a follow-up period.
Keywords: forensic care, experiencing care, mentally ill, prison, forensic setting, follow-up
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