Daily life

All prisoners are entitled to spend at least one hour a day in the open air


The prison service offers activities to prisoners


The right to access activities and spend time outdoors is guaranteed by Article 49, paragraph 1 of the PBW. Activity-time must not be less than six hours per week.

There are designated places for physical activities and sports


There are designated places for cultural activities


Cultural activities usually take place in the facility’s library.

Prisoners are not involved in the selection of activities.

Registration for activities does not involve a formal procedure. It is usually sufficient for inmates to express their wish to participate.

Prison facilities have a library


Library access is covered by Article 48, paragraph 1 of the PBW.
The library at Lelystad prison is no longer available.

Work is compulsory


First-time offenders are required to perform the work assigned to them (Article 47, paragraph 3, of the PBW). Depending on the detention regime, work may be conducted inside or outside the facility.
Inmates who have been declared unfit for work by medical services are exempted.

All prisoners are allowed to work


Work is compulsory in Dutch prisons. Inmates placed in high-security facilities or in solitary confinement are not allowed to work.
Pursuant to Article 47, paragraph 2, of the PBW, “the governor shall ensure the availability of work, in so far as the nature of the detention does not prevent it”.

Labour as a punitive measure is prohibited


Allocation to available posts is the responsibility of the prison governor.

Prisoners are not entitled to employment contracts.

Maximum daily/weekly working hours are set, including at least one day of rest


Prisoners work an average of 20 hours per week.

Prisoners are paid for their work


The hourly wage is €0.76 per hour.
Retired prisoners are not required to work. They receive an allowance equal to 80% of the basic hourly wage (€0.76).

Salaries are

significantly below wages on the outside

The minimum wage in the Netherlands increases progressively until the age of 22. The minimum working age is 15. A person of this age earns €56 for 20 hours a week.
A prisoner who works 20 hours a week earns €15.20.
The difference between a prisoner’s wage and the minimum salary on the outside is €40.80 per week.

Prisoners are paid on a piecework basis


Their income is subject to social contributions


Health and safety standards applicable outside are respected in prison


Health and safety standards vary according to the type of work. Such measures tend to be less strict than on the outside.

Prisoners have the right to join trade unions


Authority(ies) in charge of education and vocational training

Ministry of Justice

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 service implements measures to fight illiteracy


Prisoners are allowed to pass diplomas and entry examinations


Vocational training is provided

in some facilities

There is no legislation to regulate vocational training. Its provision is usually dependent on the decisions of the governor.

Vocational training is available for all prisoners


Distance courses are available


There are a number of difficulties that restrict access to these courses.
Prisoners must obtain at least one leave of absence to complete any course of study. The prison service does not always grant such permission.
The costs of distance courses are borne by inmates.
Most prisoners have to work owing to a lack of other resources.
Most sentences are less than one year. This does not allow enough time to complete the course.

Prisoners have access to computers


Prisoners do, however, have access to computers at the end of their sentences and in anticipation of their release.

Inmates who possess the necessary skills may, in principle, provide training to other inmates. In practice, such arrangements are not implemented.

Prisoners are allowed to keep themselves informed regularly on public affairs


Under Article 48, paragraph 1 of the PBW, prisoners have the right to keep up to date with the news.

Prisoners have access to a television


rented EUR3 per week

Prisoners have access to a radio


Prisoners have access to the press


Newspapers are available in facilities equipped with a library.
Bonjo is a newspaper published every two months by an organization of the same name. It is produced for prisoners in the Netherlands. It is available in all prisons.

The prison service allows access to Internet


More than 40% of the Dutch population are atheist. The most commonly practised religions are: Catholicism (29%), Protestantism (19%), Islam (5%) and other religions (5%).
The religion most commonly practised in prison is Islam.

Prisoners are free to practice their religion and follow their beliefs


Religious freedom is guaranteed under Article 41, paragraph 1 of the PBW.

Dedicated places of worship are available

in all facilities

There are chaplains in the prisons


The service seeks the presence of Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist chaplains as well as a humanist counsellor (Article 4, paragraph 1, of the PBW).

The prison service remunerates the chaplains


Individuals or organisations from the outside are allowed to participate in prison activities


Authorisations for external actors to take part in prison activities are provided by

the prison governor

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

External actors working in prisons are largely funded by the state.

Prisoners are allowed to make use of financial resources


Financial resources are accessible

  • in cash
  • in an account

According to Article 46, paragraph 2 of the PBW, prisoners in facilities where cash is prohibited have an account for their financial resources.
Paragraph 3 provides that facilities may set different rules regarding the possession of cash or the use of accounts. These rules relate, among other things, to the amount of money that inmates are allowed to possess.

Destitute prisoners receive financial or in-kind support


Prisoners are allowed to discuss matters relating to their conditions of imprisonment


A Prisoners’ Committee (Gedeco) is present in each prison. Its members are elected by the inmates. The Committee reports the complaints of the prison population to the prison service. It proposes improvements that it considers appropriate. It meets weekly with the prisoners and regularly with the prison director.

Prisoners have the right to vote


Prisoners vote by proxy (Article 6B of the Electoral Law). The proxy must be registered on the electoral register of the region involved in the election. He or she declares that he or she accepts this responsibility.
Prisoners may also request permission to leave the prison to exercise their right to vote. The service does not publish data on the exercise of this right.
It is also possible to vote by post.
In March 2017, voting booths were installed in prisons for the parliamentary elections. They were available for inmates and staff.

Inmates are not allowed to communicate with the press.
There are no prison radio broadcasts or newspapers.
Bonjo publishes a newspaper every two months on life in prison. This newspaper sometimes publishes articles written by inmates.