Expatica news

Forests could combat cell shortage, says minister

6 February 2004

AMSTERDAM — Faced with a shortage of prison cells, Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner has proposed detaining minor criminals under rustic living conditions for a few weeks in the nation’s forests or locking them up on the top floor of high-rise flats.

Donner warned that the capacity of Dutch jails will fail to meet the nation’s needs if detention alternatives are not explored. “The shortage of cells will continue growing in coming years,” he told daily newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.

Despite the construction of new jails, legislation aimed at toughening Dutch prison sentences is expected to reduce capacity by 1,700 cells over the next three years. Donner hopes the forest detention plan will reduce the burden on the nation’s penitentiary system.

The Christian Democrat CDA minister also said the idea of sending criminals to forest detention areas is not new. The Netherlands previously had government work institutes which took people out of society for a period.

The forest detention system would be applied to people who fail to pay a fine, for example, and Donner said a sober regime would be cheaper because the security and facilities would be less expensive.

Donner also suggested other novel alternatives, such as locking up detainees on the top floor of high-rise flats. This would allow surveillance to be carried out by fewer people. He also suggested a prison boat could be moored in a city harbour.

He said if some criminals are not escapee threats, why they should be detained in a maximum security prison.

Recent calls to have criminals serve longer prison sentenced has led to a reality where more prisoners are being detained in the Netherlands than neighbouring countries. Donner said the Netherlands has not been a moderate country for some time.

The cost of detaining a criminal has increased in recent years. Each overnight detention in a prison costs EUR 190, double the amount from 15 years ago.

To further combat the prison capacity shortage, the government is presently experimenting with two-person cells. The project is designed to increase capacity by 1,000 places.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news