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All allegations and suspicions of ill-treatment inflicted on prisoners are logged

  • A prisoner at the Nieuwersluis facility was the victim of a sexual assault committed by an employee of the prison. Prison management immediately barred the employee’s access to the prison and dismissed him. An internal inquiry has been opened following these events.

  • A guard is accused of sexually abusing three prisoners at the Nieuwersluis facility. He was arrested in May. The justice inspectorate (Inspectie Justitie en Veiligheid) has launched an inquiry to determine how the facility addressed the prisoners’ reports.

    / Inspection de la Justice (Inspectie Justitie en Veiligheid – Ministerie van Justitie en Veiligheid)
  • A 47-year-old guard was arrested on suspicion of having sexually abused at least three prisoners in the Nieuwersluis women’s prison between 2010 and 2016.


Budget of the prison service


Mail exchanged is subject to control


The prison governor decides on how correspondence is to be checked. Prisoners shall be informed in advance of the procedures for such checks.
The governor may restrict correspondence on the grounds of public order and security (Article 36 of the PBW).

  • The Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe facilities monitor the contents of letters sent to prisoners by the tax authorities. The prison service established this monitoring protocol after discovering that fabricated letters from the tax authorities had been used to deliver drugs to prisoners. A synthetic cannabinoid had been pulverised over papers posted to prisoners in official envelopes.

    / DVHN

Education is available for all prisoners


Individuals placed in high-security units or in solitary confinement do not have access to education.

Article 48, paragraph 1, of the PBW states that prisoners have the right to participate in educational activities provided that they are consistent with the regime and the length of detention.

  • A prisoner requested permission to complete a programme of study from the Open University that requires at least 28 hours of training per week. He was refused because he only has one day a week set aside for training and the educational team is shortstaffed. The prisoner lodged a complaint in December 2021. He judged that the facility promised him he could take this training course and did not take the necessary steps to honor this commitment. The Complaints Committee (Beklagcommissie) estimated, in its decision dated 31 March 2022, that the facility’s management did not fail to meet its obligations. It mentioned that a prisoner cannot study for 28 hours per week.

    / Commissie van Toezicht

The prison warden is responsable for the assignation of work.

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 fire broke out around 5.00 at the Alphen aan den Rijn prison. Sixty prisoners were quickly evacuated, and the fire was extinguished around 6.20. The fire seems to have been started by a prisoner, who set alight the refrigerator in his cell with a lighter.

    / AD

People serving a life sentence

0.3 % (32)


/ Council of Europe, "Space I – Report 2018", p.46.
  • The Forum Levenslang association and students from the University of Groningen track changes in the number of life sentences. They published the trends in the figures since the 1960s. As of 9 July 2022, 13 of the 41 prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment had been in custody for over 20 years. Five of the prisoners have been imprisoned for over 25 years.

    / Forum Levenslang

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.

  1. 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 annual report of the supervisory committee for the Nieuwegein facility (Utrecht) noted that a complaints officer has been appointed. A programme has been implemented to monitor the number of complaints and the role of the complaints officer.

    / Ministry of Justice (Dienst Justitiële Inrichtingen - Ministerie van Justitie en Veiligheid)

A regional body monitors the places of deprivation of liberty

yes, the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT)

The CPT has highlighted the lack of independence within the NPM. It does not have its own staff or budget.1

  1. Jacobs, P., “Supervision / Inspection of deprivation of liberty in the Netherlands”, 2015, p. 4-5. 

  • Between 10 and 25 May 2022, a delegation of the Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, part of the Council of Europe, visited the Kingdom of the Netherlands, i.e. the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao and Sint Maarten.

    / Conseil de l'Europe

A long-term sentence is considered as such as of


  • The vast majority of the House of Representatives is in favour of extending the maximum prison sentence for manslaughter from 15 to 25 years. This bill from the Minister of Justice aims to reduce the difference between the sentence for manslaughter and the sentence for murder, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. The opposition claims the increase is unnecessary, as the maximum length of a sentence is rarely applied.

    / NL Times

Prisoners serving a life sentence may apply for a pardon (gratie) after serving 23 and a half years of the sentence. A dedicated Advisory Committee (Adviescollege Levenslanggestraften) then determines whether the applicant is eligible for rehabilitation, participation in activities with view to this rehabilitation, and qualification for temporary release(verlof). The Ministry of Justice and Security decides, on the advice of the Advisory Committee, whether or not to implement the proposed rehabilitation programme.

The Advisory Committee considers four criteria:

  • risk of recidivism (recurrence of a similar offence)

  • risk of re-offending (committing of a different offence)

  • applicant’s behaviour during his/her detention

  • consequences for the victims and their family, and the risk of reprisals (see Art. 4 of the Besluit Adviescollege Levenslanggestraften).

The Advisory Committee was established on 1 March 2017. Its investigation does not constitute review of the sentence. No release is possible before at least 25 years of detention.

  • The Council for the Administration of Criminal Justice and Protection of Juveniles would like sentence reductions for people serving life sentences to be examined by a court rather than by the Minister for Legal Protection. This change aims to better ensure an impartial and independent examination of sentence reductions.

    / NL Times

The psychological state of the prisoners is considered for the cell assignment.

  • A Jewish prisoner in the Roermond prison was placed in a cell with other prisoners without access to a separate microwave to ensure his food is kosher. In addition, he is a non-smoker but was assigned to a cell with smokers. According to prison management, cell transfers are reserved for “compelling medical or psychological” reasons. The prisoner felt the circumstances of his situation were not taken into account and filed a complaint. The Appeals Committee of the Council for the Administration of Criminal Justice (RSJ) ruled in his favour.

    / AD nl

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
In its 2019 Annual Report, the Nationaal Preventie Mechanism (MNP) denounced the lack of personnel. Security is said to suffer. Staff members report an increase in assaults by prisoners. The violence is reported to occur mainly during transfers and placements in solitary confinement.

  • A prisoner assaulted a guard and injured his collarbone while resisting confinement to his cell due to an outbreak of Covid-19. He was sent into isolation for 14 days.

    / DJI (Dienst Justitiele Inrichtingen)

Measures are taken to prevent communicable or epidemic diseases. Vaccination against hepatitis B is available to men who having homosexual relations.

  • Work, outdoor and shower times were all cut by 50% in the Arnhem prison due to a new wave of Covid-19. In exchange, the prisoners have received extra snacks and drinks from the prison commissary. Prisoners who test negative for Covid-19 are authorised to shower, receive visitors, make phone calls and cook in groups of twelve.

    / De Volkskrant
  • Prisoners are reluctant to disclose Covid-19 symptoms in the Arnhem prison, as doing so would result in confinement to their cells for one week without access to activities. Plexiglass screens separate prisoners from visitors, and physical contact is strictly prohibited, including for conjugal visits. The prison governor wishes to avoid a generalised quarantine, which could be met with protests from the prisoners, as was the case at the Rotterdam prison, where police intervention and a helicopter became necessary.

    / De Volkskrant

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

  • The prison administration punished a prisoner for publishing a photo showing him posing with several prisoners in a cell, citing unacceptable behaviour. The prisoner was demoted to the “basic programme”, which restricts him to his cell except to participate in certain activities. In contrast, the “programme +” offers access to additional activities in the evening and at weekends, employment, reintegration assistance and the possibility of spending time outside of cells. The Complaints Committee, which was contacted by the prisoner over the unjust punishment, granted him compensation of €30. The Appeals Committee, however, upheld the decision to demote the prisoner but requalified it as “undesirable behaviour” rather than “unacceptable behaviour”.

    / RSJ

Number of escapes


  • A prisoner at the juvenile correctional facility of Den Hey-Acker in Breda escaped while he was on an unaccompanied leave. When he had been absent from work for three hours, two prison employees went looking for him. He held them hostage, under threat of a weapon, and forced them to drive him into Belgium. He was ultimately fatally shot by police. The Justice and Security Inspectorate, the Health and Youth Care Inspectorate, the Labour Inspectorate and the Education Inspectorate are opening an investigation to assess the decisions of the prison administration surrounding the incident.

    / Inspectie Justitie en Veiligheid
  • A prisoner in the Nieuwersluis prison escaped while she was working in the facility’s garden. Other prisoners from the same unit were immediately confined to their cells. The prisoner was arrested the following day.

    / DJI (Dienst Justitiele Inrichten)

The law forbids solitary confinement for minors


The law permits the placement of juvenile prisoners in solitary confinement as a last resort.1 This placement is decided by the prison director. It is limited to one day for minors under the age of sixteen and two days for those over sixteen.

  1. Article 25 of the Regulation on Legal Principles for Juvenile Facilities. 

  • The Council for the Administration of Criminal Justice and Protection of Juveniles (Raad voor Strafrechtstoepassing en Jeugdbescherming) recommended the creation of a policy to reduce disciplinary sanctions and solitary confinement for minors. The new policy would be based on the principles of resocialisation and minimal restrictions. Solitary confinement should no longer be used as a disciplinary sanction but instead exclusively as a measure for maintaining order.

    / Raad voor Strafrechtstoepassing en Jeugdbescherming

Five so-called ‘small-scale’ juvenile facilities (KVJJ) were established in 2021 in Amsterdam, Cadier en Keer (KVJJ South), City of Groningen (KVJJ North), Krimpen aan den IJssel (KVJJ Rijnmond) and The Hague. These ‘low-security’ detention facilities are designated for young people on remand, young people at the end of their sentence, young people under JIP measures and minors. The KVJJs are located close to urban centres and allow contact with family and friends to be maintained and activities (training, leisure, employment) to be pursued. The capacity of each establishment is eight places.

  • Juvenile justice facilities (Rijks Justitiële Jeugdinrichting – JJI) will be transformed into youth forensic centres (Forensisch Centrum Jeugd – FCJ) by 2024. A pilot project of a low-security unit (LBU) is taking place, as part of this reform, at the Hunnerberg juvenile correctional institution. In a building separate from the institution, the LBU can house 8 young prisoners, from asylums for minors (PIJ-maatregel – PIJ measure) or justice facilities (JJI), or young people who have recently been placed in preventive detention. The approach is centred on the needs and abilities of young people, granting them more freedom and responsibility. The juvenile prisoners in the pilot unit seem to be more invested in their personal development and less inclined to aggression. The department head hopes to extend this method to other groups in the juvenile detention centre.

    This low-security unit differs from small-scale facilities for incarcerated youth (Kleinschalige Voorziening Justitiële Jeugd - KVJJ). The KVJJ are independent structures near the youths’ usual living environments, enabling them to continue their studies and hobbies. The low-security unit (LBU) is affiliated with a juvenile justice facility (JJI), and the prisoners held in the LBU go to school at the JJI and see therapists there. Administrative approval is required for each transfer to and departure from the LBU building.

    / DJI Dienst Justitiele Inrichten

Number of deaths in custody


/ Council of Europe, "Space I – Report 2018", p.99.
  • A prisoner in the Zaan prison passed away following an epileptic fit while isolated in his cell due to Covid-19. During criminal proceedings, he had noted that he did not want to be alone in his cell so that his cellmate could alert the authorities in the event of a fit.

    / NH Niews

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 prison administration rejected a short-term leave request from a prisoner who wanted to celebrate the end of his son’s chemotherapy. The administration deemed this type of leave to be intended for reintegration activities that cannot be accomplished in detention, such as job interviews or obtaining an identity card. Only an extended leave can be granted for restoring family ties and parenting. The Detention Supervisory Committee would like the administration to re-evaluate this decision.

    / Kommissie van Toezicht

Volunteers from four organisations are authorised to work in prisons:

Bonjo has 1,500 volunteers working across all facilities in the country. The organisation also publishes a newspaper that is distributed in every prison.
In total, there are some 6,000 volunteers involved in prison activities.
Other organisations can be authorised to enter the prison upon request.

  • FC Emmen offers prisoners a training course focused on the football club’s values of respect, cooperation and discipline. The course lasts two months, with two sessions per week. Participants who successfully complete the course gain access to the club’s network of affiliates so they can find work after their release.

    / DJI Ministerie van Justitie and Veiligheid