Dutch cons fear losing cushy cells to Norway

Dutch prisoners have gone to court to block a ground-breaking plan to rent out spaces in their jail for criminals from Norway, where the prison service faces a serious capacity shortage.

Dutch cons fear losing cushy cells to Norway
Norgerhaven Veenhuizen prison in The Netherlands. Photo: Dutch Ministry of Justice
The 18 long-term prisoners from Norgerhaven Veenhuizen prison outside Groningen aim to prevent Dutch prison authorities from shifting them to another prison to make room for the Norwegian inmates. 
“The long-termers don’t want to go to another prison. They think they have it good here,” Jaap Oosterveer, spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Justice, told VG newspaper. “This is not up to them, it’s up to the Justice Department. But they believe they are entitled to it and have gone to court.” 
Norway is planning to rent 242 prison places at Norgerhaven from the Dutch Ministry of Justice in a radical cross-border solution to the country’s capacity shortage. 
Vidar Brein-Karlsen (FRP), Undersecretary of Ministry of Justice  told VG that he expected the deal to be signed in the summer. 
“We are very satisfied, it will solve our prison queue and problems with remand capacity in Norway,” he said.  
At the time The Netherlands gave preliminary approval to the deal in September, no fewer than 1,300 people in Norway had been given jail sentences but as yet had no place in prison.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, has a surplus of prison places. 

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Dutch cons must vacate cells for Norway: court

A Dutch court ruled Friday that long-term prisoners who currently enjoy countryside views and cook their own food must vacate their "luxury" cells to make way for Norwegian convicts.

Dutch cons must vacate cells for Norway: court
Norgerhaven Veenhuizen prison in The Netherlands. Photo: Dutch Ministry of Justice
The Dutch prisoners, all serving 10 years to life, have sued the government after plans surfaced of a multi-million euro deal with Oslo to transfer 242 Norwegian prisoners to the Netherlands.
"The long-term prisoners have to move out," The Hague's district court said in a statement after 18 inmates took the Justice Department to court to try to stop the deal.
The inmates at the Norgerhaven prison near Assen in the northern Netherlands said they will have to forfeit the privileges of long-term prisoners if they are transferred.
Relatives of the Norwegian inmates are also angry at the deal which will see the detainees transferred to another country hundreds of kilometres (miles) away.
Dutch deputy justice minister Fred Teeven on Monday signed a 25-million-euro deal with Oslo to hire out empty Dutch prisons to help alleviate waiting times in Norway to serve prison sentences.
The prisoners at Norgerhaven's "K section" however opposed the deal saying it would rob them of their current privileges.  Inmates are allowed to grow vegetables, keep chickens, cook their own food, all this with a view on the scenic Dutch countryside, and have a generous daily exercise regime.
Dutch media have labelled them "luxury cells."  
The prisoners also enjoy their own "hobby space", can choose what colour to paint a wall of their cells and have private 55-channel television, Dutch media reported.
"The… judge is of the opinion that the hiring out of the Norgerhaven prison to Norwegian authorities to house Norwegian prisoners is not unlawful," the court said.
The judge however ruled that the state "had to present the plaintiffs with an adequate alternative."
"The alternative (prison) must focus on the same special detention regime for long-term prisoners should they be transferred there," the judge ordered.
The Netherlands has predicted that around 700 of its prison cells will become vacant over the next five years and has housed 550 Belgian convicts in southern city Tilburg since February 2010.
The Netherlands-Norway deal still needs to be approved by both countries' parliaments and hopes to see the first Norwegian convicts move in on September