Netherlands: walling up madness

How does the Netherlands handle mentally disordered offenders?

Many individuals who have committed offences and suffer from mental health illness are held under the ordinary prison regime. Others are detained in psychiatric facilities. These persons have different legal statuses, may be placed in several different settings, and receive various levels of care. What is the fate of mentally disordered offenders in the Netherlands?

Prison Insider and the French National Union for Family and Friends of People Suffering Mental illness and/or Psychological Disability (Unafam) examined the experience of offenders with mental health problems in eight European countries. Here is an overview of the situation in the Netherlands.


EZV (Extra Zorgvoorziening - Extra Care Facility): specific units in each prison that accommodate vulnerable prisoners or those who require specific mental health care. The director of the facility must approve the prisoner’s transfer to the EZV.

FOBA (Forensische Observatie Behandelafdeling - Forensic Psychiatric Support Unit): a specific unit in Curaçao Prison that receives prisoners on remand for expert psychiatric assessment and accommodates prisoners with severe mental disorders and TBS patients.

FPA (Forensisch Psychiatrische Afdeling - Forensic Psychiatric Department): specific units in general psychiatric hospitals which report to the Dutch Association of Mental Health and Addiction Care (De Nederlandse Geestelijke Gezondheidszorg, GGZ) and accommodate patients who need a secure environment (low-level security).

FPC (Forensisch Psychiatrisch Centrum - Forensic Psychiatric Centre, or “TBS Hospital”): high-security care facilities which are usually private, but report to the Ministry of Justice. They principally accommodate “unconditional” TBS patients.

FPK (Forensisch Psychiatrische Kliniek - Forensic Psychiatric Clinic): units in psychiatric facilities which accommodate patients in need of a secure environment (mid-level security).

IBA (Individuele Begeleidingsafdeling - Vulnerable Persons’ Unit): a specific unit in Aruba prison that accommodates vulnerable prisoners, or those suffering from mental disorders.

IBT (Intern Bijstand Team - Special Intervention Team): a team in each prison that consists of prison staff specifically trained to care for patients suffering from mental disorders. They intervene in the case of a risk of unrest or a security threat.

LAP (Landelijke Adviescommissie Plaatsing Longstay Forensische Zorg - National Independent Advisory Committee on the Placement of Long-Term Forensic Psychiatric Care): the committee that evaluates all requests submitted by forensic psychiatric centres regarding the granting, maintaining or cancellation of long-term forensic psychiatric care status for prisoners.

NIFP (Nederlands Instituut voor Forensische Psychiatrie en Psychologie - Netherlands Institute of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology): centre for expertise and research in the field of forensic psychiatry, psychology, and somatic treatment in prisons.

Penitentiair Programma (Penitentiary Programme): social reintegration programme at the end of a prison sentence which can work a number of ways. It is conducted under supervision from the probation service.

PMO (Psycho-Medisch Overleg - Psycho-Medical Team): healthcare staff, present in every prison, which consists of one or several psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors, and nurses. It is responsible for coordinating prisoners’ care.

PPC (Penitentiair Psychiatrisch Centrum - Penitentiary Psychiatric Centre): prisons that accommodate prisoners who present with severe mental disorders and need a high level of security. Prisoners can be transferred to these facilities by the judge without their consent.

RSJ (Raad voor strafrechtstoepassing en jeugdbescherming - Council for the Administration of Criminal Justice and Protection of Juveniles): a member organisation of the Dutch National Preventive Mechanism which plays an advisory role to the government; it is a court of appeal which reviews decisions made regarding persons serving a prison sentence or custodial measure.

TBS (Terbeschikkingstelling - Made available): care measure applicable to an offender who commits a serious (as defined by law) crime and is suffering from a mental disorder at the time.