Security, order, and discipline

Security functions are fulfilled by

the prison service

Some prison facilities, units or cells implement high-security measures


Two Dutch prisons have high-security units, called Extra Secure Units (EBI, Extra Beveiligde Inrichting). These are De Schie in Rotterdam and, the largest, Nieuw Vosseveld in Vught.
The Terroristenafdeling wings(TA) in these two prisons are reserved for persons accused or convicted of terrorism or considered “radicalised” by the prison service.

Prisoners are classified according to their supposed level of dangerousness

in most cases

Prisoners must be assessed upon arrival. They are placed in an facility or unit appropriate to their risk profile (Article 22 of the “Regulation on the Selection, Placement and Transfer of Prisoners” - Regeling selectie, plaatsing en overplaatsing van gedetineerden).

The officer in charge of assessment produces a risk profile for each prisoner on arrival. It takes into account the risk of escape and risk of conflict with other prisoners or staff. Prisoners are then placed in a specific unit based on this assessment.

The DJI sets out three levels of risk: “extreme”, “high” and “increased”. There are no official figures on the number of people in ultra-secure detention. The DJI states that the number is under 100.Approximately half of the detainees are considered to be “high” risk.

Prisoners placed in units for terrorism-related offences are not subject to prior assessment. The actual need for invasive security measures is not subject to assessment. In 2007 and 2017, the CPT criticised the Dutch Government for placing individuals in such units without prior assessment.

The classification of prisoners is revised

every six months (except in anti-terrorism units)

Every month, an Operational Consultation (Operationeel Overleg) convenes to discuss the status of prisoners who have been in the same category for six months. Their risk profile is re-evaluated to determine whether the prisoner’s status has changed.

Prisoners may request a reassessment of their status at any time via the Operational Consultation.

Placement in units for prisoners convicted of terrorism (TA) is not subject to periodic reviews.

Body searches involve pat-downs, strip searches and body cavity searches (Article 29 of the PBW).

Article 29, paragraph 3 of the PBW specifies that searches must be conducted in an enclosed space and, as far as possible, by persons of the same sex as the prisoner.

Prisoners are required to pass through a security gate which indicates whether or not a body search is necessary. Where premises are not equipped with these devices, such searches are carried out on a random basis.

EBI inmates are routinely strip searched before and after visits where no means of separation are used between the prisoner and their visitor.

Strip searches are common in anti-terrorist wings. They are not conducted on a case-by-case basis. They are routine before and after visits in which no means of separation is used between the prisoner and their visitor. Inmates have come to accept the use of partitions to avoid being subjected to search searches.1 This procedure was relaxed in 2017, shortly before the publication of an Amnesty International report on Dutch detention facilities for prisoners convicted of terrorism.

All inmates are subject to a pat-down search before leaving the prison for a hearing and upon their return. Inmates in EBI and TA are subject to a full body search under the same conditions.

  1. Amnesty International Netherlands and Open Society Foundations, “Inhuman and Unnecessary: Human Rights Violations in Dutch High-Security Prisons in the context of Counterterrorism”, October 2017, p.8. 

All searches are logged in a register


Body cavity searches are conducted by a physician


Article 6.5 of the Prison Regulations (Regeling model huisregels penitentiaire inrichtingen) provides that body cavity searches shall be carried out by a doctor or, on his instructions, by nursing staff.
Any member of staff may make a decision to carry out a body cavity search.

Relatives who enter the prison are searched using the following methods

  • electronic devices
  • pat-downs

Relatives who enter the prison are searched using the following methods

  • electronic devices
  • pat-downs

Security staff carry

no weapons

A special intervention unit is in charge of restoring order


The special intervention unit (Intern Bijstandsteam) acts on the decision of the facility director. According to observers, its work suffers from a lack of clarity, particularly in its internal structure, its methods of intervention, and its supervision.

Most members of the IBT are recruited from the supervisory staff. They all receive nine weeks of training in self-defence techniques.

The prison service keeps record of incidents


Incidents are reported to the Ministry of Justice. The Supervisory Committee in each facility is informed of all incidents.

  • A protest involving 40 to 50 prisoners broke out at Lelystad prison, allegedly against measures to stop the spread of coronavirus. The justice minister has not commented on the motive for this protest.

    / NL Times

Number of escapes


The last jailbreak happened in 2015.

/ Council of Europe, "Space I – Report 2018", p.102.

Number of violent acts against prison staff


According to the prison workers’ union FNV Overheid, there are no reliable statistics on the number of attacks on prison staff by prisoners because the recording of incidents is poorly organised. However, the union points out that the reduction in the number of custodial staff has increased the pressure and reduced the time staff can spend interacting with inmates.1

Breaches of discipline are clearly defined in writing


The different disciplinary sanctions are set out in Article 51 of the APP:

  • placement in a disciplinary unit for up to two weeks

  • suspension of visits for a maximum period of four weeks if the incident is related to the visitor(s)

  • suspension of activities for a maximum of two weeks

  • denial, cancellation or limitation of temporary release

  • a fine not exceeding the equivalent of two weeks’ salary

Disciplinary offences are investigated

in most cases

The decision to apply a disciplinary sanction must be subject to an adversarial debate


The inmate shall be questioned before any disciplinary sanction is applied (Article 57, paragraph 1 of the PBW).

Prisoners are allowed to be assisted by a lawyer


Legal aid and access to an interpreter is guaranteed by the PBW (Article 65, paragraphs 1 & 2)

The prison governor decides whether sanctions are imposed. (Article 40, paragraph 2 of the Pbw).

Prisoners may appeal against disciplinary sanctions


Appeals are made to the Complaints Committee (Article 56, paragraph 2 of the PBW). The inmate may appeal against the decision of the Committee (article 67, paragraph 3).

Disciplinary sanctions can be imposed as a collective punishment


Solitary confinement can be used as

  • punishment
  • protection
  • security measure

Solitary confinement can be imposed in cases of illness to prevent transmission.

Solitary confinement is decided

  • by the prison governor
  • at the request of the prisoner

Placement in solitary confinement is decided by the prison governor in line with Article 24, paragraph 1 of the PBW. Other members of staff may make this decision in cases of emergency. In such cases, the measure may not exceed 15 hours (paragraph 4).
An inmate may also request to be placed in solitary confinement if they fear for their safety.

The duration for placement in solitary confinement is limited

yes, two weeks

Solitary confinement can be extended


there is no statutory limit on extending solitary confinement.

Prisoners in solitary confinement receive regular medical care


The prison governor shall ensure that the Supervisory Committee and a doctor are informed of transfers to solitary confinement for durations exceeding 24 hours (Article 24, paragraph 6 of the PBW). A doctor or nurse is required to visit the isolated prisoner daily. In cases where confinement was imposed for purposes of protection, a psychologist visits the isolated prisoner on a regular basis.

Solitary confinement is implemented in a specific unit or facility (Article 24, paragraph 2, of the PBW).

Prisoners placed in solitary confinement are given at least one hour access to fresh air per day (Article 49, paragraph 3 of the PBW).
Contact with other prisoners is very limited and supervised.

Prisoners in solitary confinement do not participate in activities or work, unless special permission is granted by the governor (Article 24, paragraph 2, of the PBW).

Prisoners in solitary confinement have the right to a weekly visit.