Five lost years

By Christian BlockLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

After the government rejected the concept of transition houses for ex-prisoners, the alternative programme may start soon. Scepticism accompanies the two–year pilot project right from the start.

Christian Richartz is not very fond of the Uerschterhaff remand prison, which opened in late November. There are several reasons for this. One is that the president of eran, eraus…an elo? is convinced of the truth of the saying "plus on construit, plus on remplit". In other words, the more prison structures are built, the more people are placed in those structures. Or because alternatives to imprisonment seem to be difficult to establish in Luxembourg.

However, it also has to do with the fact that the association, which advocates for the improvement of prisoners' conditions in the penal system, often has to deal with cases where people are released from prison from one day to another. Most of the time, these are pre-trial detainees who are released temporarily pending their trial. It can also happen that convicts are released within a short period of time due to their time in pre-trial detention combined with a "short" prison sentence, without enough time to prepare for release. People who have lost jobs and housing due to their time in prison or have not had opportunities to take care of one, nor the other.

Improving transition management from prison back into society is a permanent construction site. Although the idea of resocialisation was supposed to be at the centre of the 2018 reform of the penal system, from the association's point of view, the progress, for example regarding remuneration for the work done in prison, education or even visiting rights, is manageable. Probably also because, as one hears again and again, people who are in prison have almost no lobby.

At the end of October 2021, Justice Minister Sam Tanson (déi gréng) and Family and Integration Minister Corinne Cahen (DP) presented a transition programme for ex-prisoners. The transition programme, which exclusively targets people with a right of residence in Luxembourg, should help people in an emergency via a three-step model: If a person released from prison does not have a housing solution, he or she can be accommodated in an emergency shelter such as the Centre Ulysee or Abrisud for a maximum of seven days. This should also apply to people who are released from pre-trial detention – and have so far fallen through the cracks. An accompanying person ("agent de liaison") is supposed to take care of the necessary visits to the authorities and enquiries, as well as finding a medium-term housing solution in a facility of associations that are conventionalised via the Ministry of Family Affairs. The project participants can also be accommodated directly from Schrassig or Givenich in a medium-term facility or permanent home. However, the return to autonomy should take place at the latest after six months in a medium-term accommodation. The Ministries of Justice and Family and Integration respectively expect that between 50 and 80 people a year will meet the participation criteria. The pilot project is to last over two years – adjusting and evaluating will be the task of the next government.

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