Teeven wants to punish misbehaving prisoners

POSTED: 06/6/11 12:58 PM

THE HAGUE – The Dutch Justice Ministry wants to get tough on inmates by taking away privileges from those who misbehave in detention. They will get the ultimate bare-bones regime that is legally possible, if State Secretary of Justice Fred Teeven gets his way. Attorneys and the Association of Law Violators doubt whether that plan is realistic.
But Teeven sticks to his guns, saying that people have their own responsibility. If inmates continue their criminal activities while they are behind bars, Teeven sees no reason why the Dutch state would still help them. On the other hand, inmates who make an effort to change their lives for the better will get extra liberties and will be allowed to follow courses.
Ironically, there are already measures in place to deal with misbehaving inmates. They will end up in an isolation cell or they are confined to their own cell without television. But according to Teeven these sanctions are not automatically applied. He says that the prisons have to act more consequent. Bad behavior should always have consequences, Teeven, says, until the last day somebody is at her Majesty’s disposal.
Pieter Vleeming of the association of Law violators, an organization that works in the interest of inmates, does not see how the prison regime can be executed even stricter. “More austere than this is not possible, or you would have to take away the beds,” he said.
Vleeming is obviously pleased with the plan to offer courses as a reward for good behavior. “Apparently they have money for it again, because the subsidy for these projects was abolished in 2004.”
Vleeming is concerned about the effect Teeven’s plan could have on inmates with a psychiatric disorder. Their misbehavior is not always intentional, he says. “The government has to take this into account and do more research.”
Several researches, among others from the Pompe Foundation in Nijmegen, show that at least half of the inmates in Dutch prisons suffer from a psychiatric disorder or a mental handicap, sometimes in combination with an addiction. Prison doctors are not always able to recognize these conditions and that results in a lack of care and treatment. A prisoner who returns to the society without treatment, is at a higher risk to go back to criminal behavior.
Attorney Bénédicte Ficq says that an increasing number of people with psychiatric disorders end up behind bars. “Those disorders are often the cause of the criminal behavior. If you punish them for that in prison, things will go from bad to worse. Teeven ought to prevent that effect.”
Repeat offenders who end up for the fourth or the fifth time in jail will automatically fall under Teeven’s most austere regime. People who are convicted for sex crimes or for violent crimes will no longer get privileges. Inmates who attack prison guards will lose their right to conditional leave. Teeven wants to implement his plan towards the end of the year.

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