Admission and evaluation
All inmates are admitted to prison with a valid commitment order
Prisoners can inform their families about their imprisonment
All inmates have the right, if they so wish, to call a relative to inform them of their imprisonment.
The prison service is not allowed to disclose an inmate’s imprisonment without their permission.
There is a reception area for arriving prisoners
in most facilities
A copy of the prison regulations is made available to the prisoners
Admission staff are trained to identify prisoners at risk of harming themselves or others. They must report these prisoners to all departments during weekly meetings. At-risk prisoners are visited by a nurse and a psychologist.
Prison staff draw up an individual sentence programme for each prisoner.
This programme sets out the organisation of daily life: work, recreational and sports activities, learning, and visits. Prisoners usually work for half of the day. The other half is devoted to other activities.
Access to rights
Prisoners can be assisted by a lawyer throughout their incarceration
All prisoners have access to a lawyer of their choice.
Legal representation during the trial is guaranteed by the Legal Aid Commission. (Raad voor Rechtsbijstand). Article 34 of the Legal Aid Act (Wet op de rechtsbijstand) states that free legal representation is guaranteed to prisoners whose annual income, as of 1 January 2018, is less than or equal to €26,900 for a single person and less than or equal to €38,000 for persons living as a couple.
Prisoners have access to a legal aid centre
Legal aid centres, run by students, are set up in some facilities (e.g. Nieuwersluis prison in Utrecht, Zaanstad in Amsterdam, and Nijmegen prison).
Inmates do not receive legal aid for administrative matters (divorce, social benefits, etc.).
Prisoners may receive visits from their lawyers on any working day. The visit must be scheduled at least one day in advance (Article 3.8.2 of the Internal Regulations of Penitentiary Institutions).
Prisoners are not permitted to receive visits from their lawyers during hours of work, unless there is an emergency or special permission is granted by the governor. Visitation time during working hours is exempt from remuneration.
Deaths in custody are logged in a register
The number of deaths in custody are published once a year.
Number of deaths in custody
Variation in the number of deaths in custody
decreased by 44%
Number of deaths attributed to suicide
Variation in the number of suicides
decreased by 9 %
Death rate in custody (per 10,000 prisoners)
Suicide rate in custody (per 10,000 prisoners)
National suicide rate (per 10,000 inhabitants)
The suicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants in the national population is 9.6.
The prison service must notify a judicial authority for
Staff must systematically inform the Supervisory Committee representative (Kenniscentrum Commissie van Toezicht) of any death that occurs in the facility.
The governor is required to discuss administrative matters related to the death with the next of kin. The governor also grants them access to the place of death.
The chaplain of the prison makes him/herself available for the deceased’s next of kin.
Suicide prevention policies are implemented
Dutch criminal law does not punish suicide attempts. However, some preventive measures, such as solitary confinement or the use of mechanical restraints, are perceived as a form of punishment.
Since 1999, all facilities have had a suicide prevention policy in place. Prison officers receive training on the measures to be taken.
Prevention includes the following measures1:
- Medical examination upon arrival. The medical file may be shared with surveillance staff in case of risk. Such sharing is not mandatory.
- Provision of a direct phone line within the cell. Staff are required to respond within 10 minutes.
- Placement in solitary confinement. This measure may only last a maximum duration of two weeks. It may be repeated an unlimited number of times. All objects in the prisoner’s possession are removed, and they must wear suitable anti-suicide clothing. Video surveillance may be imposed if necessary. Use of mechanical restraints is also possible. A medical examination must be conducted on a daily basis. The General Inspectorate of Justice and Security (Inspectie Justitie en Veiligheid) notes that inmates in solitary confinement do not usually receive visits from medical staff at weekends.
Thoonen, E., “Death in State custody”, 2017, p. 263-281. ↩
The prohibition of torture is enshrined in the Constitution and the legislation
only in the legislation
Article 8 of the Dutch International Crimes Act makes torture a crime. This definition is in line with the Convention against Torture and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT) was
ratified in 1988
(signed in 1985)
All allegations and suspicions of ill-treatment inflicted on prisoners are logged
If so, the prison service must notify a judicial authority
The principal policies implemented to prevent abuse are:
- training of prison staff
- possibility of lodging a complaint with an independent body (Supervisory Committee)
- continual access to a lawyer
In accordance with the Istanbul Protocol, medical staff undergo training to identify signs of torture or ill-treatment. According to the testimonies of medical staff gathered by a delegation from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) in 2016, cases of traumatic injuries are not duly recorded.
Each prison facility keeps an updated record of violence between inmates
Acts of violence between prisoners are investigated
Members of the medical staff informed a CPT delegation in 2016 that cases of violence, particularly altercations between prisoners, were not systematically reported to the investigative authorities.
Number of complaints filed by prisoners against the prison service
Articles 60 and 61 of the PBW provide for the right to file a complaint against any decision made by or on behalf of the facility director.
There are no formal requirements for the complaint. Any identifiable written material is treated accordingly. It must be filed within seven days of the disputed decision. The complaint may be written in Dutch or in any other language (Article 61 of the PBW).
Standard procedure guarantees confidentiality: prisoners file their complaints in dedicated mailboxes, accessible only to the Supervisory Committee.
The complainant may be assisted by a lawyer at no cost.
The Complaints Committee (Beklagcommissie) is the specialised body for receiving complaints. It is appointed by the Supervisory Committee (Beklagcommissie van Toezicht) (see “National preventive mechanisms and other external control bodies”).
The Complaints Committee consists of three members of the Supervisory Committee and a secretary (Article 62 of the PBW). The chairman is ideally a magistrate.
The Complaints Committee may order the implementation of certain measures, conflict resolution, or the awarding of compensation.
Inmates and the prison service may appeal against the decisions of the Complaints Committee. The appeal must be lodged within seven days of the decision. It is handled by the Appeals Committee (Beroepscommissie) of the Council for the Application of Criminal Law and Youth Protection (Raad voor Strafrechtstoepassing en Jeugdbescherming).
The Dutch complaints procedure is considered by some experts to be an effective remedy for inmates’ grievances.1 It is one of the few complaint mechanisms that are regarded highly by the European Court of Human Rights and the CPT. Prisoners are, however, constrained by the short time limit for lodging complaints.
Pauline Jacobs and Anton Van Kalmthout, “Chapter 4: The Dutch complaint and appeal procedure for prisoners in the light of European standards”, in Monitoring Penal Policy in Europe, 2017, p. 15. ↩
The Complaints Committee may refer a complaint to the Supervisory Committee. The complaint is then dealt with more formally, with the Supervisory Committee acting as a mediator between the prisoner and the head of the facility (Article 63 of the PBW).
National Preventive Mechanisms and other external control bodies
The Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) was
ratified in 2010
(signed in 2005)
An NPM has been established
yes, in 2011
Name of the NPM
Nationaal Preventie Mechanisme
The NPM has come into office
yes, in 2011
The NPM was appointed by
the executive power
Structure of the NPM
The Dutch NPM is a network comprising several institutions, managed by the Inspectorate of Justice and Security (Inspectie Justitie en Veiligheid). It is “an open-ended advisory body for institutions”.1 These institutions carry out their activities in accordance with their statutory duties. They include:
- Health and Youth Care Inspectorate (Inspectie Gezondheidszorg en Jeugd)
- Council for the Application of Criminal Law and Youth Protection (Raad voor Strafrechtstoepassing en Jeugdbescherming)
- Guidance group of the Custodial Institutions Supervisory Committee (*Klankbordgroep Commissie van Toezicht justitiële inrichtingen *)
- National Supervisory Committee for in-custody care (Landelijke Commissie van Toezicht Arrestantenzorg)
- Supervisory Commission (Commissie van Toezicht)
Supervision of the NPM was assigned to the National Ombudsman until 2014, at which time it decided to withdraw. The main reasons cited for the ombudsman’s withdrawal were the lack of sufficiently independent inspections and the absence of clarity regarding its duties.
The network structure of the NPM was a political choice made by the Ministry of Justice “which saw no added value for the Netherlands in the Protocol compared to the monitoring systems already in place, whether provided by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) or by national bodies”.
Jacobs, P., “Supervision / Inspection of deprivation of liberty in the Netherlands”, 2015, p.4. ↩
The NPM reports are made public
The NPM publishes an annual report. It is its only publication.
Each of the member institutions produces reports corresponding to its remit. These are usually published, with a few exceptions.
The Health and Youth Care Inspectorate publishes its reports on its website (in Dutch).
The legislation allows the NPM to carry out unannounced visits
The NPM can monitor all prison facilities, units and premises
Prisons in the Dutch Caribbean do not, however, fall within the scope of OPCAT/NPM. The Council for Law Enforcement (Raad voor de Rechtshandhaving) is not part of the NPM. It oversees prisons in the Caribbean (Bonaire, Curaçao and Sint Maarten). Aruba does not fall within its jurisdiction. Aruba has on occasion asked the Inspectorate of Justice and Security (Inspectie Justitie en Veiligheid) to review the conditions of its prison.
The NPM recommendations are effectively implemented
A regional body monitors the places of deprivation of liberty
yes, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT)
Its reports are made public
The CPT made visits to the Netherlands in 1992, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2007, 2011, 2014 and 2016.
Read the reports published by the CPT following its visits to the Netherlands here.
The Subcommittee for the Prevention of Torture (SPT) has visited the country
yes, from the 28 to the 31 July 2015
The purpose of the visit was to evaluate the work carried out by the NPM.
Its report was made public
Read the report published by the SPT following its visits to the Netherlands here.
Each facility has a Supervisory Committee (Commissie van Toezicht). This is made up of members of the public, and must “*enable supervision by persons outside the prison, offering the outside world a view of the entire facility”1.
It participates in NPM meetings as an “associate”.
Supervisory Committees are set up for each establishment.
The Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (Studie- en Informatiecentrum Mensenrechten, SIM) also monitors conditions of detention.
Jacobs, P., “The Development of Rechtsburgerschap of Prisoners: A National and European Perspective”, 2015, p. 386. ↩
Sentence adjustments policies
The law provides for a sentence adjustment system
The Public Prosecutor’s Office is responsible for decisions on sentence adjustment. The judge and the facility director have residual jurisdiction in this matter.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office may be consulted on the temporary release of inmates. The final decision is made by the prison management.
Retraction of alternative sentences
The public prosecutor’s office may decide on incarceration if alternative measures, such as community service, are not adequately executed.
Sentence adjustments can be granted during the incarceration
Prisoners serving a one-year prison sentence may apply for parole after serving six months and one third of the remaining sentence.
Prisoners serving a sentence of more than one year’s imprisonment must serve two thirds of their sentence.
Parole finishes at the end of the initial sentence (minimum of one year).
Prisoners can contest a negative decision of sentence adjustment
The law provides for a temporary release system
The decision to grant temporary release lies with the facility director. The counsel of the Public Prosecutor’s Office may be sought.
Only prisoners who have been tried and convicted or who have been convicted on appeal may be granted temporary release (Article 26 of the PBW).
Temporary release is granted in accordance with the length of the sentence.
It is arranged by the governor at the point of incarceration and is spread over the entire length of the sentence. The maximum frequency is once a month. Each release is limited to 52 hours.
Prisoners may be granted temporary release, for good behaviour, at Easter, Pentecost, Christmas and New Year.
Temporary release is also granted for personal reasons (birth, illness, death of a close relative; specialised medical care; preparation for release, job interviews, education or training). In such instances, temporary release may be supervised (Article 21 of the EAA).
The law provides for a sentence adjustment for medical reasons
Number of prisoners who have been granted a presidential pardon or amnesty during the year
Royal pardons are regulated by a law (Gratiewet).
Article 2 provides two grounds for pardon:
- The court did not take into account circumstances that would have justified a different sentence or no sentence at all
- Execution of the sentence no longer serves the purpose for which it was issued
Pardons may lead to partial or total reduction of the sentence, to its suspension or a transfer to an alternative measure.
The prisoner, a family member, his/her lawyer or a member of the parole staff may apply for a pardon.