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Netherlands: Prison After-Care Criticized

(Feb. 4, 2009) According to a report "Transition to After-Care," published by the Sanction Application Inspectorate of the Netherlands on January 26, 2009, after-care for persons released from prison varies across the country, lacks consistency in standards, and needs to be more effectively organized by the Correctional Institutions Agency.

A press release on the report, issued by the Ministry of Justice, noted that "[s]ince 2006, many new procedures in the field of after-care have been introduced in the correctional institutions" in the Netherlands, with social workers in the institutions playing a pivotal role in the process by assisting detainees with "practical matters, such as identity documents, a source of income, housing and care, the lack of which could cause a lapse into recidivism." (Press Release, Ministry of Justice, Inspectorate Critical of Coordination of After-Care to Ex-Detainees (Jan. 26, 2009), available at
.) Despite social workers' being motivated and committed, however, the Inspectorate found, the correctional institutions' information systems and methods do not provide them with enough support. This results in the use of different methods across institutions, "making it impossible to determine whether the envisaged goals can be achieved by deploying social workers." (Id.) Another problem is that the social workers' role and tasks are not clearly defined enough to ensure uniform reception of information from correctional institutions by all municipalities and the given municipality's involvement in the after-care handling of released persons. It may also be made more difficult by the fact that not all municipalities have an appointed contact for after-care. (Id.)

To ameliorate the situation, the Inspectorate recommended that the Correctional Institutions Agency carry out the following measures:

· give social workers a more precise job description;

· ensure that data in the report sent by the institution to the municipality about the released inmate who will take up residence there is more reliable;

· ensure that more detail about methods and arrangements is given so that an unambiguous approach can be developed;

· "invest continuously" in collaboration with the cooperating as well as other organizations; and

· "make sure that information on after-care is always sent, even to institutions that do not have social workers in place." (Id.)

As part of its response to the Inspectorate's report, the State Secretary for Justice stated that a model after-care coordination plan for the correctional institutions and municipalities is to be ready in the spring of 2009. It will represent "a significant step forwards in terms of structurally embedding after-care into the municipal and prison framework, and effecting a more uniform method," she noted, adding that several recommendations made by the Inspectorate parallel the model plan. (Id.)