Netherlands agrees to take Norway's criminals

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Around 300 Norwegian prisoners will serve sentence in Dutch jails from 2015. Photo: Shutterstock
00:03 CEST+02:00
Norway will rent prison space in the Netherlands in an effort to cope with the current overcrowding problem in the country's jails, Norway's justice minister said on Monday.

The combination of long waiting queues for prisoners in Norway's jails, plus the need to shut down parts of some prisons for urgent repair work, has forced Norway to seek alternative solutions outside of its borders.

It is expected Norway will send around 300 prisoners to jails across the Netherlands.

Norway's Minister of Justice, Anders Anundsen, said in a press statement: “We inherited a challenging situation from the last government with too few prison cells. In order to expand capacity in the short term, we have started a dialogue with Dutch authorities on renting prison cells in the Netherlands. At the moment, the backlog in Norway is at 1,300 custodial sentences and there is a great demand for prison space."

The deal involves several hundred prison cells and would allow Norway to avoid overcrowding problems and maintain its standards while prison renovation work costing around 4.4 billion kroner ($700 million) is carried out, said Reuters.

Fred Teeven, Netherlands' state secretary with responsibility for prisons, said in a letter to the Dutch parliament: "In Norway there is a capacity shortage, and right now we have a surplus." 

The Netherlands has already leased prison capacity to Belgium for several years, but this is the first deal with a country not on its border.

Norway is eager to rent space but retain control over the management of inmates. Anundsen said: “In the dialogues we've had with the Netherlands so far, we hope to reach an agreement on simply renting prison cells in the Netherlands, but on Norwegian terms; with a Norwegian warden, and conducting penalties according to Norwegian legislation.”
The Norwegian government will this autumn produce a parliament report on the conditions of Norwegian prisons and the need for solutions.
Final agreement with the Netherlands on the issue of prison is hoped to be reached early 2015. Any deal for prison spaces will apply to prisoners with life or long-term sentences.
Anundsen added: ”It could also be prisoners who have foreign citizenship and are to be deported from Norway. Those who must get out of the country.”
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The government of the Netherlands informed their National Assembly on Monday evening that they are positive to receiving prisoners from Norway.
In Norway, the parliament must approve a possible agreement with the Dutch.

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