THE HAGUE–The Democratic Party D66 in the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament asked Dutch State Secretary of Security and Justice Klaas Dijkhoff on Wednesday to look at the possibility to house inmates from Dutch Caribbean prisons in the many vacant jail cells in the Netherlands.
Dijkhoff said this option was highly unlikely.
Member of the Second Chamber Judith Swinkels of D66 presented a proposal to house inmates from overcrowded Dutch Caribbean prisons in the Netherlands during a debate with Dijkhoff about the Dutch prison system. She received immediate support from colleague Liesbeth van Tongeren of the green left party GroenLinks who called it an “excellent proposal.”
The Netherlands is faced with an increasing number of vacant prison cells: one third of the cells are currently empty. And, this figure is expected to rise in the next five years as less capacity will be needed due to the decrease in crime and the shorter sentences imposed by judges.
Therefore, the Dutch Government is contemplating the closure of penitentiary facilities, also in light of the cost saving aspect. However, a majority of the Second Chamber made clear during Wednesday’s debate with the State Secretary that it was against the closure of prisons.
D66 was one of the parties that objected to the plans and wants to prevent the closure of penitentiaries and the discharging of prison personnel. In D66’s opinion the demand for prison cells could very well increase in the future when investments are made in criminal investigations and prosecution.
“In the meantime, we are looking at alternatives to fill empty cells. We have prisoners from Belgium and Norway who are temporarily making use of Dutch penitentiaries. The Netherlands could make prison cells temporarily available if there is a shortage of prison cells within the Kingdom,” said Swinkels in an invited comment.
According to Swinkels, housing Dutch Caribbean prisoners would also prevent that persons convicted by the Court in the Dutch Caribbean countries go free due to a shortage of cells on the islands. She said that the message to the State Secretary was clear: “Look for alternatives to fill empty prison cells, also within the Kingdom.”
Swinkels referred to the 2014 report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the CPT, which mentioned a shortage of prison cells in the Dutch Caribbean countries. D66 considered it important that all countries within the Kingdom put in maximum efforts to guarantee human rights, and where needed to assist each other, she added.
Dijkhoff replied during the debate that there was sufficient cell capacity in the Caribbean Netherlands. A temporary cell complex was constructed in Bonaire while the new penitentiary in Bonaire should be ready by the end of 2016.
Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten are not a responsibility of the Dutch Government as these countries are in charge of their own penitentiary system, said Dijkhoff. He said that so far the countries had not asked to house inmates in the Netherlands, except for a few individual cases when transport to a Dutch prison was required for security reasons. “I see no possibilities there,” he said.