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. In these facilities, prisoners spend approximately 21 hours per day in a cell. The ratio of guards to inmates is two to one. All visits and calls from inmates are monitored.
The Terroristenafdeling wings(TA) in these two prisons are reserved for persons accused or convicted of terrorism or considered “radicalised” by the prison service. According the annual report of 2020 published by the NPM, Vught prison held 31 prisoners for a capacity of 41 places and De Schie prison had five prisoners for seven places. Prisoners convicted of terrorism are not individually assessed. They are subjected to security measures that are considered excessive: invasive body searches, isolation, and placement under constant surveillance. These measures can be considered cruel, inhumane, and/or degrading treatment. However, the government has been implementing reforms to improve the treatment of these detainees since 2017. In particular, a risk-based assessment would be established.
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.
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
Relatives who enter the prison are searched using the following methods
- electronic devices
Security staff carry
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.
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.
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.
European Public Service Union,“Prison staff perspectives. An EPSU survey on the impact of the economic crisis on prisons“, p.15. ↩
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
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”.
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)
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
- 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.
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 have the right to a weekly visit.