Dutch MPs approve Belgium prison-rent deal

20th January 2010, Comments 0 comments

Dutch lawmakers gave the final go-ahead Tuesday for Belgium to rent 500 prison cells from the Netherlands to the tune of 30 million euros (43 million dollars) per year, the justice ministry said.

THE HAGUE - "The senate today approved a law ... in terms of which Belgian prisoners can serve out their sentences in the prison of Tilburg" in the southern Netherlands as from next month, it said in a statement.

Strapped for space in its prisons, Belgium signed an accord with the Netherlands in October last year to rent the cells from its neighbour for a period of three years.

Not only would this exchange benefit Belgium, the ministry said, but would protect the jobs of Dutch prison workers who were facing dismissal as unused prisons risk closure.

"With the approval of the senate, the transfer of Belgian inmates to Tilburg can start on February 2," the ministry statement said.

Dutch inmates held at the prison will be transferred to institutions elsewhere in the country.

Belgium's prisons currently hold 10,400 people, or around 2,000 more than their capacity.

According to the bilateral deal, no prisoners who pose "an escape risk or a risk to society" will be sent to Tilburg, about 10 kilometres (six miles) from the border.

The Netherlands has around 2,000 empty prison cells thanks to a drop in the crime rate after a spike in the 1990s.

Recent spectacular escapes from Belgian prisons had put the spotlight on the country's overburdened jail system.


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