Dutch prison week


Disciplinary sanctions and special security measures in the Dutch prison system. Disciplinary sanctions can be imposed by the prison governor where the behavior of the inmate is in conflict with good order, security and discipline (e.g. the possession of a small quantity of marihuana or alcohol or serious misbehavior during transport). Before a sanction can be imposed, the inmate must be heard, preferably in a language that he understands.

Disciplinary sanctions are:

  • Solitary confinement of two weeks maximum. Solitary confinement is implemented in a cell separate from the premises. The cell contains only a toilet, a mattress and a foam rubber block to sit upon. During solitary confinement, the prisoner may not take part in prison labor and recreational activities. He may, however, receive mail and visitors, attend religious services and he may also spend one hour per day in the open air. The prison governor may, however, reduce these contacts with the outside world. In cases in which the solitary confinement exceeds 24 hours, the prison governor has to inform the Supervisory Committee and the prison physician or his substitute promptly; 
  • Deprivation of the right to receive visits for four weeks maximum, provided that the behavior was related to the visit; for example where the visitor had attempted to smuggle drugs on the prisoner’s request; 
  • Exclusion from participation in one or more activities for two weeks maximum; 
  • Refusal, withdrawal or restriction of the next prison leave; and 
  • A fine of two weeks’ wages for prison labor. 

“Punishment cell”

The prison governor may also impose a sanction where the fine is not paid on time. The prison governor may also impose a combination of disciplinary sanctions. In cases in which the behavior of the inmate has caused material damage, the prison governor will have to negotiate with the prisoner on the payment of compensation.

Safety measures

In addition to disciplinary measures, the prison governor can also impose safety measures. Whereas disciplinary sanctions serve to correct the inmate’s behavior, safety measures can be applied where the order and safety of the penitentiary establishment or the safety or well-being of the prisoner is at stake.

Safety measures are: the exclusion of a prisoner from regime activities or isolation in an isolation cell for two weeks maximum, either of which can be extended by an additional two weeks if circumstances so require. Contact with the outside world can be restricted or excluded, except contact with wardens and prison officers. Due to the far-reaching nature of these measures, the Supervisory Committee and the prison physician have to be informed within 24 hours.

Full body search

Furthermore, the prison governor can order that a prisoner’s body be examined if this is necessary to prevent serious risk to the order and safety in the penal establishment or to the inmate’s health. Internal bodily examination includes anal or vaginal examination and the insertion of an endoscope. The examination takes place by a physician or on his instructions by a nurse. This intrusion to the basic rights of the inviolability of the body or the right on privacy (sects 10 and 11 Dutch Constitution) may be necessary if there are serious reasons to assume that the inmate has concealed parts or ammunition of a firearm or cocaine in his body.


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