Originally, the penitentiary institution of Wortel was a charity colony in which men were imprisoned pursuant to the Law of 1891 concerning vagrancy. The infrastructure of that time was only appropriate for people with short sentences. After the repeal of that Law on 1 March 1993, the destination of the institution changed. The buildings were gradually converted, given more security and renovated. Thus, the prison evolved to a half-open institution in which people with long sentences are accommodated as well.