Published On: Sat, Dec 2nd, 2023

Dutch prison system also struggles with staff shortages

PHILIPSBURG — The Pointe Blanche prison is not the only facility in the Kingdom’s justice chain that struggles with staff shortages it appears from a letter Minister Franc Weerwind (Legal Protection) sent to the Dutch Second Chamber.

The minister wrote that not all criminals with a verdict to their name can be put in prison immediately. He considers several solutions, like releasing prisoners with a sentence of up to 1 year with an ankle bracelet.

Jan Keijser, a representative of the central works council of the DJI (Dienst Justitiële Inrichtingen) said that staff is unable to abide by agreements about activities and the airing of inmates if there is no solution for the staff shortages. “We do not want inmates to be in their cells all the time.”

Keijser said that the work of prison guards and others whose work brings them in contact with inmates is heavy and often underestimated. The situation in the labor market is not helpful either, because many sectors are desperately looking for staff.

Labor union FNV queried 1,800 of its members about the situation in Dutch prisons. More than half of the respondents said that violence and intimidation have increased, while an increasing number of inmates struggle with psychiatric issues. For 500 prison guards, this is a monthly experience, another 400 guards experience violence or intimidation on a weekly basis.

The FNV-query brought to light that prison guards have to deal with threats to their children and family members; sexual intimidation is another issue.

In 2021 an inmate in a prison in Nieuwegein stabbed a prison guard and threw boiling oil over him.

In his letter to the Dutch parliament, Minister Weerwind notes that the prison system is hiring many applicants, but that many others leave. There are many vacancies and the level of experience is going down.

More than thirty Dutch prisons, among them the one in Zaanstad (with a capacity for 750 inmates), struggle with staff shortages, overly high work pressure and a high absence due to illness.

The situation in the Netherlands almost mirrors the one in the Pointe Blanche prison. According to a report by the Progress Committee about the third quarter of 2022, the capacity of the prison has been reduced from 150 to 80 persons (due to the aftermath of Hurricane Irma) and that absence due to illness decreased from 24.2 to 15.7 percent. In 2014 a media report mentioned that the formation plan for the prison was 207ftes (full time jobs), while only 107ftes were occupied. Absence due to illness was a whopping 28 percent and the real strength of the staff was 37 percent of the formation plan.


Related articles:
Minister Richardson: “Decision is vital to meet the pressing needs of the Pointe Blanche prison”