Custodial sentences may only be imposed on adults who have committed an indictable offence. They serve their sentence in a prison or remand centre.
Determinate terms of imprisonment
A determinate term of imprisonment may be for any period of time from one day to thirty years. The criminal justice authorities always count a month’s imprisonment as thirty days, regardless of the actual number of days in the month during which someone is imprisoned. This means that a one-year prison sentence lasts 360 instead of 365 days. Persons who have been sentenced to a determinate term of imprisonment may qualify for release on parole.
In the Netherlands, life imprisonment really means imprisonment for the rest of one’s life. Someone sentenced to life imprisonment can only be released if the king grants him a pardon. There are currently about 30 prisoners in the Netherlands serving life sentences.
No entitlement to benefit
Prisoners are not entitled to receive benefits. Former prisoners may be entitled to draw benefits again after they are released.
Types of prisons
The Netherlands has different types of prisons. Persons being held in pre-trial detention are placed in a remand centre. Those who have been convicted by a court are detained in a prison.
Whether a prisoner is placed in a remand centre or a prison depends on two things:
- the length of the custodial sentence;
- the risk of flight and the risk to society.
The Custodial Institutions Agency (Dienst Justitiële Inrichtingen, DJI) carries out the sentences.
Revocation of passport after conviction
If a person is sentenced to six months or more in prison, the Public Prosecution Service may request that their passport be revoked to ensure that the offender cannot go abroad to avoid serving the sentence. A Bill has been introduced to allow passports to be revoked for sentences of four months or more.
Medical care during detention
Detainees are entitled to medical care during their stay in a custodial institution. The Ministry of Security and Justice pays for the ensuing costs through a collective insurance arrangement.
Health insurance continues during detention, but detainees do not need to make use of it. As a result they do not pay healthcare contributions, nor do they receive any healthcare benefit.
Offenders to contribute to cost of criminal proceedings and victim support
Offenders will be made to pay part of the costs that result from the crime they committed. This includes the costs of the investigation, prosecution and trial, and victim support. A Bill to this effect has been introduced, and the legislation is expected to enter into force on 1 July 2017.
Tougher sentences for violent offences under the influence of drugs or alcohol
The government has introduced a Bill to increase sentences for violent offences committed under the influence of drugs or alcohol. A test would be used to determine whether the person in question had taken drugs or alcohol. Persons suspected of assault, serious assault or street violence would be obliged to take the test. Parliament has yet to approve the Bill.
Government plans for retrenchment measures in prisons
The government plans to reduce the cost of the prison system and introduce retrenchment measures, the key points of which are as follows:
- By 2018, more than half of all prisoners will be housed in shared cells. This is twice as many as at present.
- Evening and weekend programmes (with extra activities) will be discontinued for most detainees.
- Prison programmes that help prisoners reintegrate into society will be discontinued.
- Reintegration leave is also to be discontinued. This was leave granted towards the end of the sentence to allow prisoners to readjust to society. Incidental leave (to attend a funeral or visit someone in hospital) will still be allowed.
- Towards the end of their sentence, prisoners may be eligible for electronic detention.
- 19 prisons are to be closed down.
All these measures are set out in the Custodial Institutions Master Plan 2013-2018 and will result in savings of €270 million. The cabinet has approved the plan, but it is still to be approved by Parliament.