Trial with two-person cells ‘succeeding’
15 January 2004
AMSTERDAM — Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner has said the experiment with two-person jail cells is succeeding and has again indicated he is in favour of placing more than two detainees in a prison cell.
The Netherlands already has jails where more than two detainees are confined to a cell, such as its emergency jails housing drug smugglers and holding centres asylum seekers. People in default of fine payments are also detained in multiple-person cells
But in a bid to relieve the pressure on the nation’s prison system that has seen the early release of criminals due to a lack of capacity, the government is conducting a trial of two-person cells in the regular prison system.
And research from TNS/Nipo also indicates that nine out of 10 Dutch nationals are in favour of two-detainee cells, a system designed to make room for 2,000 extra prisoners.
In an interview with newspaper Trouw, Minister Donner confirmed his support for placing more than two people in a cell, having previously indicated he was in favour of such a scheme.
But a Justice Ministry spokeswoman has said an introduction of three and four-person cells is not expected in the short-term. She said Dutch jails did not have the sufficient capacity to handle such a move.
Donner said the current test with two-person cells is progressing without serious incident, although some detainees have complained about cramped living conditions.
But not all of the participating prisons have successfully started the trial, with the jails of De Geerhorst in Sittard and Overmaaze in Maastricht meeting resistance from prisoners who claim that promised voluntary involvement in the trial is a farce. They are protesting against threats of tougher regulations if they do not co-operate.
Because legislation has not yet been officially adjusted, detainees are theoretically allowed to refuse their transfer to a two-person cell.
But the director of the jail in Krimpen aan de IJssel, G. Bakx, has also used force to ensure that the two-person cells are being fully used during the trial period.
And in the Rijnmond region — where four jails renovated 125 of their 1,250 cells to house two prisoners in one cell — detainees who refused to participate were threatened with solitary confinement.
Meanwhile, outspoken populist LPF MP Joost Eerdmans has recently spent a week in a two-person cell to test his support of the scheme, an NOS news report said.
Despite admitting on Radio 1 that it was the longest week of his life, he remained in favour of multiple-detainee cells. The MP said the Netherlands needed to make do with the resources it had.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news