Dutch Prison System

Dutch Prison System

1. Description.

* Number of prisons and type. Dutch prisons are
characterized as closed (high security), semi-open
(normal security) and open institutions (minimal
security). Extra-high-risk security units within
prisons exist to house inmates who are high escape
risks or exhibit violent behavior toward other
inmates or prison officers. Detention in these
extra-high-risk units is for a period of 6 months,
with a review and possible 6-month extension.
(Tak, 1993: 41).
In all, there are separate institutions for
men, women, and juveniles; open, half-open and
closed institutions; long-term and short-term
institutions; institutions for so-called
“self-reporters,” maximum security prisons for
long-term prisoners; special establishments for
traffic offenders, mentally disturbed offenders
and dangerous criminals, and remand centers. Some
institutions, however, may house two or three
different classifications. (Van Kalmthout, 1992:

* Number of prison beds. On January 1, 1992,
there were 7,581 cells, of which 95% could be
used. (Tak, 1993: 52). The largest prison in 1991
(a prison for adult males) had a capacity of 335
beds; the smallest, an open institution for women,
had 5 beds. (Vegter, 1992: 142).

* Number of Annual Admissions.
In 1991 there were 33,940 total admissions, of
which 32,391 (95.4%) were male and 1,549 (4.6%)
were female. (Tak, 1993: 52).

* Average daily population/number of prisoners.
The prison population on December 31, 1990
registered: 6,526 total inmates, of which 2,407
(36.9%) were convicted persons, 3,143 (48.2%) were
awaiting trial, and 976 (15.0%) were housed
outside of the institution. (Statistical Yearbook
of the Netherlands, 1993: 416).

* Actual or estimated proportions of inmates
incarcerated. The estimated yearly percentages for
prison inmates by gender on September 30, 1991
were as follows:
Males Females
Drug crimes 20% 40%
Violent crimes 11% 8%
Property crimes 47% 33%
Other crimes* 23% 19%

*Includes offenses against the public order,
violations of traffic law, sexual offenses which
are not of a violent nature, offenses which do not
fit into other categories, or unknown offenses.
(Linckens, 1993)

2. Administration.

The Prison Department, under the direction of the
Ministry of Justice, is responsible for the
administration of prisons. All prisons in the
Netherlands are administered by the federal
government. The top administrative official in the
prison is the prison governor,
subordinate to him are the assistants. The
administration is further assisted by mental
health and social workers, group-leaders, and
warders. Some institutions employ guards who
enforce the external security. (Tak, 1993: 39).
The organization and administration of
prisons is governed by the Prison Administration
Act of 1953, which recognizes the following
categorizations of prisons for males in the
Netherlands: institutions for young offenders up
to the age of 23; short-term adult institutions
for sentences of up to 6 months; and long-term
adult institutions for sentences over 6 months.
The only categorization for females is that they
be housed in separate institutions than males.
Another category of offenders are low-risk
offenders who have been sentenced and are later
summoned to report to a particular prison to begin
serving their sentence. These “self-reporters” are
housed in low-security penal institutions.
The National Prison Selection Center in the
Hague classifies prisoners and determines the
institution to which they will be sent. If
disciplinary or safety problems arise, a prisoner
may be transferred to another prison.

* Number of prison guards. In 1992, there were a
total number of 7,233 prison personnel, of which
4,478 (62%) were prison guards. Uniformed
officers in junior-level management comprised an
additional 344 (5%) of prison personnel and
senior-level managers or wardens totaled 277 (3%)
of the prison staff. Other prison staff include
administrative and social work staff. (Gemmert,
The 1991 data indicates that of the 4,414
custodial staff in both adult and juvenile
prisons, 17% are female. (Oudhof, 1992).

* Training and qualifications. Applicants for the
position of prison officer must be between the
ages of 24 and 48 years and have achieved at least
a certain high school proficiency (mavo-level).
They must pass a preselection process consisting
of two intelligence tests and one personality
test. Applicants who pass these tests are then
given further psychological tests to determine
their suitability for the job.
The actual training takes part in the CWOI
(Centraal Wervings-en Opleidingsinstituut or
Central Recruitment and Training Institute) in
either the Hague or Amsterdam and in part at the
IBBO (Instituut Basis Beroepsopleiding or
Institute for Basic Vocational Training) in
Veenhuizen. There are two phases to the training.
The first year of basic training consists of 3
blocks for a total 13 weeks of instruction at the
CWOI or IBBO, alternating with 2 practical
training periods of 4 weeks each in a correctional
facility under the guidance of a mentor who is an
experienced prison officer.
After the last instructional block, the new
correctional officer enters the practical stage
and serves a 6 to 8 month internship, while still
under the supervision of the mentor. During the
basic training, emphasis is placed on physical
activities such as sports and self-defense, social
skills, the organization of the facility, gaining
an understanding of the prisoners and their
environment, and escape prevention. In the 3rd
and 4th year of service, there is a 12-week long
subsequent training period for Level I
certification (Vervolgopleiding I). In the 5th
and 6th years of service, an officer can attend
the 10-week Level II Training (Vervolgopleiding
II) where the emphasis is upon knowledge of the
organization and skill in the career field. This
advanced training is necessary for promotion.
(Kommer, 1991: 136-138).

* Expenditure on prison system. In 1991, the
Dutch government spent 911.2 million Dutch
guilders on the prison system (Statistical
Yearbook of the Netherlands, 1993:

3. Prison Conditions.

* Remissions. Since 1987 and the introduction of
a major reform of the conditional release
practice, prisoners serving a maximum 1 year
prison sentence must be released after having
served 6 months. For those serving sentences
longer than 1 year, release occurs after
two-thirds of the sentence is served, with no
conditions attached. The right of a prisoner to
be released early is expressed in the Criminal
Code. While early release cannot be revoked, it
can be delayed under the following circumstances:
if continued treatment is deemed necessary for a
prisoner serving his sentence in a mental
hospital; if the prisoner commits a serious
offense after his sentence begins; or if the
prisoner is sentenced for a serious offense with a
penalty of 4 years or more and the offense is
committed while serving time for an offense for
which the prisoner would normally be eligible
for release. (Tak, 1993: 46-47)
The 1988 Pardon Act grants the Queen power to
pardon prisoners when direct application is made
to her by the prisoner or the prosecution service.
The sentencing judge and the prosecution service
are to be notified. The pardon may be conditional
(Tak, 1993: 47).
The degree of conditional release depends
entirely upon the classification of the prisoner.
Work and educational release are granted as a rule
to inmates in open institutions. Educational
release may be granted to inmates from other types
of institutions on an individual basis.
Prisoners in open institutions are generally
granted weekly weekend furloughs. “Self-report”
prisoners and those serving sentences longer than
5 weeks are entitled to a weekend furlough every 4
weeks. The 1982 General Leave Rule established
guidelines for the temporary release of other
inmates. [See Peter J. P. Tak, Heuni (European
institute for Crime Prevention and Control,
Criminal Justice Systems in Europe: The
Netherlands, pp 44-45 for a more thorough
explanation of restrictions.]

* Work/education. The Principles of Prison
Administration Act establishes the rights and
duties of the prisoner in the areas of spiritual
and social care, discipline, recreation, and work.
Detainees awaiting trial are not required to work,
but they may do so to obtain extra money.
Convicted prisoners must work and refusal to do so
is punishable by 5 days of solitary confinement.
Prisoners in open institutions usually work
outside of the prison.
Limited educational opportunities are
provided to inmates. Inmates in open institutions
may be allowed to pursue an education outside of
the prison. Limited vocational training is
available in the juvenile system. Because prison
sentences are usually relatively short, intensive
vocational training is limited.

* Amenities/privileges. The prison is obligated
to provide for the prisoner’s improvement and
rehabilitation. The Prison Rules have further
developed the principles laid out in the Prison
Administration Act by detailing educational and
recreational provisions (television, films,
lectures, participating in performances). The
prison system also provides medical care,
psychological and psychiatric care, and chaplains
to aid prisoners in their rehabilitation. (Tak,
1993: 40, 43).
Prisoners have the right to send and receive
mail and to receive visitors. They also have the
right to appeal decisions made by the prison
governors to the Complaints Committee of the
Prison Supervisory Board. (Tak, 1993: 40).

Note: this work was completed in 1993


See Also

  • Criminal Justice
  • Legal System
  • Criminology
  • Dutch Criminal Justice System

Further Reading

  • Cole, George F., S. J. Frankowski, and M. G. Gertz, (1987) Major Criminal Justice Systems. Beverly Hills: Sage.
  • David, R. and J. E. Brierley (1968) Major Legal Systems of the World Today. London: Free Press.
  • Fairchild, E. (1993), Comparative criminal justice systems. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
  • Feeley, Malcolm M. (1973), “Two models of the criminal justice system”. Law and Society Review, 7(3): 407-425.

oyng, Willem, and Schlingmann, Francine. “The
Netherlands”, EC Legal Systems: An
Introductory Guide. Sheridan, Maurice and
Cameron, James (eds.), (London: Butterworth
and Co., Ltd.),1992, pps. 1-42.

Hunter, Brian (ed.), The Statesman’s Year-book:
Statistical and Historical Annual of the
States of the World for the Year 1991-1992,
(London: MacMillan Reference Books, 1991).

ICPR: International Criminal Police Review
(Interpol), “The Netherlands”, March-April
1990, no. 423, pps. 18-20. Kommer, Max, De
gevangenis as werkplek, (The Prison as a Place
of Work). (Arnhem: Gouda-Quint) bv, 1991.

Kruize, Peter and Wijmer, Dick J.. “The Use of
Force in Daily Police Procedure in The Hague”,
Police Studies, Volume 14 No.3, Fall 1991,
pps. 121-126.

Kuijvenhoven, Aris. “The Police in the
Netherlands,” Focus on Police Research and
Development. (London: Police Research Group,
Home Office Police Department), Issue Number
1, December 1992, pps. 42-44.

Ministry of Internal Affairs (Ministerie van
Binnenlandse Zaken), Kom bij de politie, als
mensenkennis je bester wapen is, Directie
Politie, Afdeling formatie-en loopbaanbeleid &
personeelsvoorziening, the Hague, 1991. (Come
to the police, where knowledge of people is
your best weapon, Police Recruitment
Brochure, Direction Police, Department
Formation and Career Management and Personnel
Provision). Netherlands Ministry of Justice,
The Court System in the Netherlands, the
Hague, August 1990a.

Netherlands Ministry of Justice, Law in Motion: a
policy plan for Justice in the years ahead,
the Hague, 1990b.

Netherlands Ministry of Justice, The Kingdom of
the Netherlands: Facts and Figures.
Information Department, the Hague, no
publication date.

Lensing, Hans and Rayar, Louise. “Notes on
Criminal Procedure in the Netherlands,” The
Criminal Law Review. September 1992, pps.

Leuw, Ed. “Drugs and Drug Policy in the
Netherlands”, Dutch Penal Law and Policy:
Notes on criminological research from the
Research and Documentation Centre. Ministry of
Justice, The Hague, The Netherlands, November,

Linckens, Paul, Ministry of Justice, the Hague.
Telephone call and fax received: July 6, 1993.
Telephone no.:(70) 370-2692. Receipt of Table
4.5 Offense of Detainees, by suspicion or
conviction by age and sex, from Prison
Statistics 1991, central Bureau of Statistics,
1992 (Table 4.5 Delict van gedetineerden,
waarvan verdacht of waarvoor veroordeeld, naar
leeftijd en geslecht, from
Gevangenisstatistiek 1991, Central Bureau voor
de Statistiek).

Machielse, Ad. “De rechter” (“the Judge”), De
Staat van Justitie(the State of Justice) by
Jan Fiselier, Lodewijk Gunther Moor and Peter
Tak (eds.) (Nijmegen: Sun Publishers), 1992,

Ministry of Internal Affairs, “Slachtofferenquete
allochten”, Integrale Veiligheidsrapportage.
(“Victim Inquiry of Foreigners”, Integral
Safety Report), 1993; pps. 105-106;
information obtained from Mr. Eijken on August
11, 1993.

Mller-Rappard, Ekkehart and M. Cherif Bassiorni
(eds.),”Convention on the Transfer of
Sentenced Persons (ETS No. 112)”, European
Inter-State Co-operation in Criminal Matters:
The Council of Europe’s Legal Instruments,
Volume 1, Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff
Publishers, 1991, pps. 763-781.

Mller-Rappard, Ekkehart and M. Cherif Bassiorni
(eds.), “European Convention on Extradition”
(ETS No. 24), European Inter-State
Co-operation in Criminal Matters: The Council
of Europe’s Legal Instruments, Volume 1,
Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers,
1991; 207-279.

National Victimization Survey, Central Bureau
of Statistics, from the Kwartalbericht
rechtsbescherming en veiligheid Quarterly
Report on Legal Protection and Safety) (CBS)
February, 1993, pps. 34-40.

Nederlands Wetboek (the Legal Code of the
Netherlands), Supplement 165 (September 1988),
“Beneluxverdrag aangaande Uitlevering en
Rechtshulp in Strafzaken”, (Benelux Treaty
concerning Extradition and Legal Assistance in
Criminal Matters).

Nederlands Wetboek (the Legal Code of the
Netherlands), Supplement 241 (January 1993),
“Overeenkomst met de Bondesrepubliek Duitsland
inzake de toepassing van het Europees
uitleveringsverdrag van 1957” (Agreement with
the Federal Republic of Germany concerning the
Application of the European Extradition Treaty
of 1957).

Nederlands Wetboek (the Legal Code of the
Netherlands), Supplement 183 (October 1983),
“Uitleveringsverdrag met de Verenigde Staten
van Amerika 1980, 1983” (Extradition treaty
with the United States of America).

Nederlands Wetboek (the Legal Code of the
Netherlands), Supplement 215 (March 1989),
“Uitleveringsverdrag met Australie 5 September
1985″ (Extradition Treaty with Australia) and
Rechtshulpverdrag met Austraie” (Treaty on
Assistance in Legal Matters).

Nederlands Wetboek (the Legal Code of the
Netherlands), Supplement 241 (January 1993),
“Uitleveringsverdrag met Canada 13 October
1989” (Extradition Treaty with Canada).

Opiumwet, VII 201-204 in Nederlandse Wetboeken –
Suppl. 240 (November 1992); (The Opium Act of
1976; in the Dutch Penal Code – Supplement
240, November 1992; pages VII-201-204).

Oudhof, J., Head of the Department of Justice and
Security Statistics, Central Bureau of
Statistics, Fourth United Nations Survey of
Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal
Justice Systems, 1992.

Pease, Ken and Hukkila, Kristiina (eds.) Criminal
Justice Systems in Europe and North America,
Helsinki: Helsinki Institute for Crime
Prevention and Control, Publication Series No.
17, Chapter on “The Netherlands”, 1990, pps.

Schreuder, Hans, Inspecteur, Chief Staff Officer,
Bureau Voorlichting en P.R., (Staff Office
Communication), Police Headquarters, Burg
Patijnlaan 35, the Hague, the Netherlands.
Personal interview: August 11, 1993. Fax
received: August 16, 1993. Telephone no.:
31-70-310-2021; fax:31-70-310-2028.

Statistical Yearbook 1993 of the Netherlands,
“Justice and Security”, (Voorburg/Heerlen:
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Tak, Peter J.P.. “Het strafproces-een overzicht”
(“The Criminal Justice Process – A Synopsis”),
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Peter Tak (eds.) (Nijmegen: Sun Publishers),
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Van der Vijver, Kees, Broer, Wim, Hoogenboom, Bob,
and Naeye, Jan, “De politie” (“the police”),
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Van Kalmthout, Anton M. and Tak, Peter J.P., “The
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Vegter, Paul, “Straffen en andere sancties”, De
Staat van Justitie.(“Punishment and other
sanctions”, in The State of Justice) by Jan
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WODC (Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek en Documentatie
Centrum), “Justitiele Verkenningen”, De
reorganisatie van de Politie. Research and
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Justice,Issue #493, 1993. (“Judicial
Explorations”, The Reorganization of the

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