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Jan De Cock (b. 1964) has spent time as a development worker in Latin America and Africa . The step from street educator, including with glue-sniffer youths in Chile , to prison volunteer was but a small one. In 2001-2002 he travelled around the world, staying in some hundred different prisons where he asked to be locked up voluntarily in order to get an "inside" view of the lives of men and women behind bars. In 2005, Jan spent a full month in a prison in North-Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo.
He describes his experiences of these various prisons in two books: Hotel Prison and De Kelders van Congo (‘The Cellars of Congo ' ). Jan regularly gives talks on the subject of prison life and conditions. He is also a member of the pastoral tam of the Antwerp prison. From his stay in numerous prisons he brought back ideas for projects, with the question of how the necessary support could be provided. Since the foundation of the Within-Without-Walls non-profit association, work on these projects can proceed in a more systematic and wide-ranging manner.

Foto: Mazuricio Donoso


'Hotel Prison' published in Dutch
Around the World in 100 Prisons

Cover Hotel Prison

How does one celebrate New Year's Eve in a prison where one of your fellow detainees dies? How much do the leg chains of a death-row inmate in Bangkok weigh? Do Eskimos have igloo prisons? A quest for the human face of detainees, doubtless one of the most forgotten groups in our society.

Jan De Cock travelled around the world from one prison to the next, in search of life behind bars. Through steppes and deserts, from temperatures ranging from +45 to -25°C , by boat or by bike, he went in search of detainees. He has shared a cell with musicians or actors, hired guns and mothers who stole food for their children. Not to mention rats and fleas, lizards and grasshoppers.

Hotel Prison is a topsy-turvy tale of the hidden lives of people who we tend all too often to forget. 

The book is not published in English. To give you an idea of the book: read Hotel Prison summery and excerpt.

Technical details:

ISBN:  978-90-209-5105-9
Price:  19,95 EUR
Category: 508 | Travel writing
Date of publication: 15-04-2003
Format:  140 x 210
Binding:  Paperback
Printings:  10
Pagas:  416
Publisher: Lannoo Editions, Tielt Belgium

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Also published in German:

as Hotel hinter Gittern Von Knast zu Knast.
Cover Hotel hinter Gittern

Tagebuch einer aussergewöhnlichen Weltreise. 

ISBN : 978-3-89944-143-7
Publisher: Kunth, Munich, Germany

and in French

as Des prisons comme hôtels. A la rencontre de prisonniers du monde.

ISBN: 978-2-87386-575-7
Publisher: Lannoo Editions, Tielt Belgium

'The Cellars of Congo'
The story of a voluntary stay in a Congolese prison.

Cover: The Cellars of Congo

Africa is a kaleidoscope, a forgotten continent of which we know very little. At the heart of that fascinating, ‘dark' continent lies Congo . And in the deep interior of Congo , where the country is bisected by the equator, lies the city of Butembo frika is een caleidoscoop.
Jan De Cock went in search of the essence of Africa . He wandered around the celars of Congo , and chose voluntarily to be locked up in the Kakwangura prison of Butembo, a fascinating microcosm and mirror image of what Africa and Congo truly are...
In this book, Jan De Cock recounts his experiences in a Congolese prison. He records the often unbelievable stories of the detainees: tales of hope and despair, of their dreams of peace, elections and democracy. Their jokes and their fairy tales. Their recollections of the Congo of yesteryear and their daydreams of the future. Stories such as that of Kitakya, for instance, who at the age of 87 remembers how in times past, a murderer was wrapped in banana leaves and set on fire. Or that of Julienne, who illegally distilled ‘ kintiki '. Or of Kabuyaya, the prison guard, who used the cane on stubborn drug users, while he himself smoked more than anyone else. Of days without food, when schoolchildren brought firewood for the prison kitchen ...

Technical details

ISBN: 978-90-209-6629-9
Price: 17,95 EUR
Category: 740
Publication date: 19-06-2006 *
Format: 140 x 210
Binding: Paperback with flaps
Printings: 2
Pages: 208
Publisher: Lannoo Editions, Tielt, Belgium

Press coverage

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Want to book a talk by Jan De Cock?
Contact Ingrid Remaut

+32 486 41 65 38 (after 5 p.m.)


Projects completed

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