Minister embraces improvements following inspections at Den Hey-Acker
All recommendations made by the inspectorates will be adopted following two serious incidents at the Den Hey-Acker government youth offenders institution in Breda. Minister of Legal Protection Franc Weerwind reports this in a letter to the House of Representatives.
Four inspectorates have been investigating the death of a youth after he escaped and took two employees of Den Hey-Acker hostage in January of last year. These inspectorates include the Inspectorate of Justice and Security, the Health and Youth Care Inspectorate, the Education Inspectorate and the Netherlands Labour Authority. In April of last year, another prisoner was stabbed at Den Hey-Acker and later died.
'I consider two such serious incidents from a high-security youth prison unacceptable. That this all happened within a short time in the same youth offenders institution is alarming,' Weerwind wrote to the House. 'I am fully aware that staff daily work with the target group under difficult circumstances and that risks are involved, yet I also take seriously the stern conclusions and we must reduce the risk of this happening again in the future.'
Following the incidents, measures were taken by the board in April to improve safety for staff and youths. These include banning sharp knives and better guidance for staff to determine when a youth may use a knife during educational activities. In addition, staff will receive new instructions on how to detect contraband and criminal acts in custody. Resilience training will be expanded.
At Den Hey-Acker, a new method of preparing files and reporting is now being used. The exchange of information within teams with different specialties has also been improved. Staff from all government youth offenders institutions hold more frequent meetings to exchange experiences and learn from one another. As a result, they gain greater awareness of their safety and can act more effectively.
In the investigation into the escape, the inspectorates concluded that the build-up of unaccompanied leave was very rapid, while the risks were still high. In view of this, the Custodial Institutions Agency and the Ministry will assess whether youth are being permitted to take leave too soon. Internal safety is also being examined for staff in terms of aggression and violence.
The inspectorates are conducting intensive supervision of youth offenders institutions. Following recommendations from the inspections, more measures have been taken that contribute to safety. In early February, the Minister already announced that three staff members per residential group will henceforth be scheduled to improve prison staffing levels. Due to a staff shortage, qualified temporary workers are being used, but on a limited basis. As advised by the inspectorates, temporary workers can now access files.