Special populations

Female prisoners

5.5 % (598)

Variation in the number of female prisoners

increased by 1.9%

As of 1 September 2016, there were 464 women prisoners out of a total of 8,726 inmates.1

  1. Council of Europe,“Space I - Report 2016“, p.67. 

Percentage of untried female prisoners

41.2 %

/ Council of Europe, "Space I – Report 2018", p.39.

Percentage of foreign female prisoners

21.6 %

/ Council of Europe, "Space I – Report 2018", p.39.

There are three facilities for women: Ter Peel prison (south-east wing, capacity for 226) in Evertsoord, Nieuwersluis prison (capacity for 220) in Utrecht, and Zwolle prison (capacity for 143).

There is an effective separation between men and women


Untried female prisoners are separated from the convicted


The prison staff is

male and female in equal number

Body searches are conducted by a female member of staff:

  • Pat down searches may be conducted by male staff, only when strictly necessary
  • Strip searches are always conducted by female staff

The prison service takes the specific needs of female prisoners into account, providing, for example, gynaecological consultations, as well as access to female sanitary products and contraception.

Conjugal visits are allowed for women

yes, with proof of long-term relationship

Women benefit from the same provisions as men with regard to conjugal visits. The facility director verifies the validity of the relationship. Conjugal visits are permitted once a month.

The legislation provides for a sentence adjustment for pregnant women or women with young children


Pregnant women receive proper prenatal care


Childbirth takes place in

external care facilities

Pregnant inmates are admitted to a regional healthcare facility two weeks before their due date. The mother remains in hospital for ten days after delivery, before returning to prison with her newborn child. The child welfare service (Advies- en Meldpunt Kindermishandeling) must approve this transfer. Ter Peel prison is equipped with a nursery for children over eight weeks old.

The use of instruments of restraint is forbidden during labour and childbirth


Mothers are allowed to keep their children with them

yes, until 9 months

Children, regardless if they are breastfed, remain with their mothers until the age of nine months.
The Dutch authorities consider the prison environment to be non-conducive to child development.

The only facility that is fully adapted to offer places to mothers with young children is Ter Peel prison in Evertsoord. The facility has a mother and child unit (Moeder met Kindhuis, MMK). Children can stay here with their mother until the age of four. Only mothers who are eligible for semi-open placement have access to this unit. The unit has a play area. A day-care centre located near the prison accommodates children during the day.

Security staff in these units wear a uniform.

The prison service takes the specific needs of children into account, namely food, clothing and medical care.

The law bans the imprisonment of minors


Article 77h, paragraph 1(a) of the Penal Code provides for the imprisonment of minors convicted of criminal offences.

Minimum age of imprisonment for minors

12 years old

The age of legal majority is 18 years old.

Incarcerated minors

1.1 %


Variation in the number of incarcerated minors


The proportion of custodial sentences handed down increased from 13% to 25% between 2015 and 2020. The average length of detention increased from 50 to 86 days between 2018 and 2020. The average occupancy rate in juvenile facilities was almost 90% in 2021. In some cases it reached 150%.

Ministry in charge of incarcerated minors

Ministry of Justice and Security

(Ministerie van Justitie en Veiligheid)

Ministerie van Justitie en Veiligheid

Minors are subject to a specific justice system. A number of provisions of the Penal Code apply exclusively to them.
They are brought before a juvenile court and placed in dedicated juvenile facilities.
Juvenile criminal law may also be applied to adults aged between 18 and 23 years, following analysis of their maturity and personality by the judge in charge of the case.

The main sanctions provided for in the Penal Code (art. 77h) are as follows:

  • for an offence: detention, community service or a fine. Minors who were under the age of 16 at the time of the offence may be imprisoned for a period of between one day and 12 months. Minors aged between 16 and 18 years at the time of the offence may be imprisoned for a period of up to 24 months (art. 77i).

  • for a minor offence: community service or a fine

Community service may be carried out in the form of:

  • unpaid work or work to repair the damage caused by the offence
  • educational sentence (learning project)
  • combination of both

The law also provides for a security measure, JIP, dedicated to minors suffering from mental disorders. This measure can last for three years and can be extended once or twice, for a maximum total of seven years. The JIP can be converted into a TBS measure (see section Psychological care).

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

Figures on minors in prison are published

on a regular basis

Minors in prison are separated from adults


The sentencing of persons between the ages of 18 and 23 under the juvenile justice system means that minors and young adults may be detained in the same facility

The law provides for single cell accommodation for minors


Each juvenile prisoner is accommodated in a single cell equipped with a bed, a table, a chair, a wardrobe and a toilet cubicle. The cell also includes a radio and a television.1

  1. Dutch prison service, “Information on the detention of minors”, p.1. 

The schooling of minors is compulsory


Schooling is compulsory in the Netherlands for children aged five to sixteen (1969 education law).
Juvenile inmates attend school for around 25 hours a week, from Monday to Friday. Each class has a maximum of seven to eight students, either from within the prison or from other child protection facilities. The teaching is comparable to that of a regular school.

The law prohibits strip searches for minors


Children are subject to pat downs and strip searches. The latter is conducted in a separate, private room, and, where possible, by a person of the same sex.1

  1. Article 34, para. 3, of the Regulation on Legal Policies for Juvenile Prisons, (Beginselenwet justitiële jeugdinrichtingen). 

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

Specific activities are planned for minors.
The TOPs! programme is aimed at young people aged between 12 and 23 whose behaviour is considered problematic. It is based on cognitive psychology.
The Work-Wise programme supports young prisoners in their choice of training or future work. It is offered to all minors imprisoned for more than three weeks.
Most of the juvenile centres also offer cognitive-behavioural or sensory stimulation therapy (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, EMDR).

Since 2010, staff in juvenile facilities have received additional training based on the YOUTURN methodology. It seeks to empower the child and encourage them to be more responsible.

Number and percentage of foreign prisoners

22.9 %


Variation in the number of foreign prisoners

increased by 14%

As of 1 September 2016, there were 1,590 foreign prisoners out of a total of 8,726 inmates.1

  1. Council of Europe, “Space I - Report 2016”, p.72. 

Foreign prisoners are informed of their right to communicate with their consular representatives


The prison regulations are translated for foreign prisoners


Foreign prisoners can be assisted by an interpreter


Foreign prisoners may be assisted by an interpreter during police interrogations and court proceedings, free of charge. They receive the same assistance during meetings with their solicitors.

Foreign prisoners are entitled to legal aid


There is no discrimination between foreign and national detainees concerning the right to legal aid/counseling.

Illegal residence on Dutch territory is not punishable by imprisonment. It is subject to administrative law and, more specifically, to the Aliens Act of 2000.

Foreign prisoners are allowed to remain in the country after having served their sentence

under certain conditions


Foreign nationals can have their residency permits revoked or withdrawn following a prison sentence. This depends primarily on the length of residency prior to detention and the seriousness of the offence committed.

Foreign prisoners are allowed to make phone calls to their home country. The cost of these calls is borne by them. The charges, set by the private operator Teleo, are considered excessively high.

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

Cumulative sentences have a limit


Life sentences are banned


Article 10 of the Penal Code allows for life imprisonment.
Article 77b, paragraph 2, excludes minors from this.

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

Variation in the number of people serving a life sentence

increased by 3.2%

There were 31 inmates sentenced to life imprisonment as at 1st September 2016.1

  1. Council of Europe,“Space I - Report 2016“, p.88. 

Life sentences are imposed in cases of “serious violation of State security” (Article 92 et seq. of the Criminal Code), “serious violation of the dignity of the Crown” (Article 108 of the Criminal Code), “serious violation of the general security of property and persons” (Article 168 of the Criminal Code), terrorism (Article 282b of the Criminal Code), capital murder and homicide. In practice, only the last two infractions have resulted in a life sentence.

There are specific prison facilities for life-sentenced prisoners


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

Percentage of untried prisoners

29.2 % (3,184)

Variation in the number of untried prisoners

increased by 2.5%

3 804 inmates were in pre-trial detention as at 1st September 2016, out of a total number of 8 726 inmates.1

  1. Council of Europe, “Space I - Report 2016”, p.74. 

Untried prisoners are separated from the convicted


The law provides for release on bail for untried prisoners


The accused may appeal against their pre-trial detention Art. 69 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, CCP. He/she must go before the district court before a decision is made.

The accused is entitled to the free assistance from a lawyer Art. 43 of the CCP.

Untried prisoners do not benefit from any special detention regime in line with the presumption of innocence. There are fewer employment possibilities than in prisons for convicted prisoners, and access to conjugal visits or temporary release is very restricted.1

  1. Boone M., Jacobs P., Lindeman J., “DETOUR - Towards Pre-trial Detention as Ultimo Ratio, October 2016, p.3. 

The prosecution or imprisonment of a person on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity is banned


LGBTQI+ persons are separated from other prisoners

at the prisoner’s request

The service offers all vulnerable prisoners the possibility to be placed in a dedicated unit or cell.

Assignment of transgender prisoners to a specific facility depends on

their biological sex

Transgender prisoners are entitled to customised searches


Transgender prisoners benefit from specific health care


Conjugal visits are allowed for LGBTQI+ prisoners


The prison service keeps a record of prisoners with disabilities


Prison facilities are adapted to the needs of prisoners with disabilities

some facilities

Disabled prisoners in need of support are assisted by fellow inmates, guards and nursing staff, employed by the prison service or otherwise.

Death penalty is abolished

yes, since 1952

The death penaltyis abolished since 1870 for common law crimes.