Prison (illustrative)
Prison (illustrative)Flash90

A Jewish member of Belgium’s parliament has successfully lobbied to change regulations so that Jewish prisoners will be allowed to wear kippahs anywhere on prison grounds.

According to a report in Hamodia, previously the country’s prison system disallowed head coverings except in cells. This meant that Jewish prisoners were not allowed to wear their kippah except inside their own cell, and could not wear one when meeting with family members or even the prison chaplain.

They could also not wear a kippah when exercising outside, although they could wear a head covering to protect their head from extreme cold or heat.

The campaign was pushed by parliamentarian Michael Freilich (NV-A party), which he began in 2019. Freilich, an observant Jew from Antwerp, had visited Jewish prisoners to make sure they were not being subjected to antisemitism. In June 2021, he discovered that a hassidic Jew in prison was holding his arm over his head when he left his cell because he was not allowed to wear a head covering, even when meeting with his family and the prison chaplain. Freilich watched as the man sat with his arm covering his head for an hour and a half.

In response, Freilich began to ask Justice Minister Vincent Van Quickenborne about religious head coverings in parliamentary sessions. He argued that based on EU law, there was no reason prisoners should not be allowed to wear head coverings. The debate lasted six months.

Last week, Freilich was sent a notice from Van Quickenborne that he was amending the rules so that inmates can now wear head coverings for religious reasons anywhere in prison.