Does it work?

Social Impact Report (McKinsey, Ashoka & Touché)


“I was a street kid fighting with everyone. Touché taught me how to manage my frustrations in order not to annoy other people with my problems anymore. Then I have learned how to persist, to grow, to be positive and to think about my future. I have fought to pass exams, and eventually graduated!”

“After 8 years in prison, I started a job in the social employment circuit. Now I am team leader there. That would never have happened without touché.”

“Just to let you know that everything goes well. I passed the CE driving test and I am working since 6 or 7 months. I haven’t had any aggressive disagreements anymore; I reconciled myself to the situation. It is a matter of choice and I can choose another life! I hope you can help many more people like me!”

“Vzw touché is important to me because I can use their support to express my feelings in a way that doesn’t involve aggression. After all that has happened, I realise that sometimes a conversation is not enough to clear your mind. The touché sessions offer just that little bit more and they will surely help me not to commit offences in the future, since they all involved violence in the past…”

“Touché helps us to address our frustrations in order not to bother our families and other people with it.”

The Human Rights League

“Every year, the Human Rights League awards the Prize for Human Rights to an individual or an organisation for meritorious work in the field of defending human rights. Vzw touché has been awarded this prize in 2010 for its contribution to a more meaningful and more humane penal system. In order to diminish (ex-)prisoners’ aggression problems, this organisation has developed counselling programmes that can take place in and outside prison walls. Touché receives the Human Rights Prize to acknowledge the organisation’s work. Seriously aggressive crimes grip the public, the media and politicians. Prisons are regularly the scene of aggression between prisoners and against staff members. Recidivism figures are tragically high. The system invests too little in what is one of the objectives of punishment: make people leave prison better than they were before. In the past, mainly prisoners with aggression-related problems missed the boat, whereas they needed long-term counselling. This gap has recently been bridged by the people of vzw touché, who train (ex-)prisoners in aggression control both in and outside prison walls and both individually and collectively. Touché’s approach is unique and innovating. Touché attaches great importance to the continuity of counselling, that preferably starts during detention and does not stop after release. Vzw touché proves that paying attention to the human being behind the offences can be very efficient, something policy makers tend to forget. Vzw touché does not look upon its clients as ‘products’ or ‘risk factors’, but as human beings with personal talents and shortcomings, which can only be reached by genuine attention. The results are very satisfactory. More and more authorities appeal to touché. More money is needed in order to shorten the current waiting lists. Part of the means the Ministry of Justice spends on increasing the prison capacity could be invested in projects such as touché. Investing in aggression counselling costs money, but it certainly is remunerative in the long term, since it diminishes recidivism. Building more prison cells, on the contrary, is a mere treatment of symptoms.”

The Flemish Union of Specialists in the Solution-oriented cognitive and systematic therapy

“The Alfred is an annual prize that is awarded to an individual or organisation for meritorious work in research into, application and dissemination of the solution-oriented idea in Belgium. In 2013 vzw touché was awarded the ALFRED for its extraordinary meritorious work in het development of a solution-oriented approach of prisoners and ex-prisoners with aggression-related problems.”

Secondary school students after a testimony of two touché clients

“It was very interesting to meet you. It is rather unusual to hear a prisoner telling his story. It was instructive and exciting to hear how life really is in prison.”

“It helped me to try to avoid future situations of aggression and it relieved me being able to tell my story to people who really know what it is like to be in trouble.”

“It was instructive to hear how life goes in prison. And also the fact that everyone can either take the good or the bad road.”

Hans Claus, prison governor in Oudenaarde

“The touché programme is the best insurance a detention house can have to stay away from the spiral of violence. In prison, where many prisoners are forced to live together in a small space, aggression will always be part of the day-to-day reality. Touché teaches prisoners, as well as prison personnel, that aggression does not necessarily mean violence. And they are successfully promoting this idea. Both prison staff and prisoners unanimously agree that the touché programme has helped to avoid many violent situations. Making aggression discussible before it turns into violence, and even after a burst of violence, is the key to success and avoids a culture or a spiral of violence. This is the group insurance we should sign up for. In addition, touché’s service is of a high standard. Its staff is very accessible and flexible. They are indispensable to refloat rehabilitation cases. After all, prisoners are coached also after their detention period and by the same counsellors. This is a very strong offer that is highly appreciated by the SURB, because it leads to results.”

Nadia Goossens, president and Tom Bogaert, assessor, Sentence Implementation Court of Brugge

“In our view, this organisation does a very good job and relieves the critical needs in the field; it would be a shame to waste the expertise and the counselling touché offers. We hope that this initiative receives the necessary acknowledgement.”

Piet Piron, president of the Sentence Implementation Court of Ghent

“I would like to emphasise my special appreciation for vzw touché. They first contacted us to check whether their project could be of an added value for us. From the very beginning I saw that all the counsellors, driven by idealism and loads of energy, were eager to offer an added value to the sentence implementation chain. With their goal to focus on aggression and keeping prisoners’ impulses under control they hit the bullseye. Accepting counselling by touché is something to hold on to. The counselling helps convicts to recognise triggers for aggressive behaviour and teaches them more appropriate ways to react. I fully agree with touché’s believe in the power of working beyond prison borders and in integrated counselling. The fact that they aim to start counselling within prison walls from the onset of the sentence, which reduces many risks, enables the sentence implementation court to grant sentence implementation modalities in an early stage of the sentence. In addition, the court can rely on touché’s help during the implementation of the modalities. Starting the process of learning how to deal with aggression in an early stage brings more calm and safety during detention. It is also a blessing for the prisoners’ family members who often are the first to have to deal with the disadvantages of tension.”