Dutch want prisoners to pay $28 per day for cells

THE HAGUE (AFP) - Prisoners in the Netherlands may soon have to pay for their cell accommodation, if a bill tabled on Monday becomes law.

Deputy Justice Minister Fred Teeven "believes that a convicted prisoner serving jail time will have to pay partly for their incarceration," said ministry spokesman Wiebe Alkema.

"The minister think it's only fair that not all the costs should be shouldered by the State and society when you lock somebody up," he said.

Prison time costs the Dutch government around 250 euros (S$430) per day per prisoner, Alkema said.

If passed by the two houses of parliament, convicted prisoners will pay a suggested flat rate of 16 euros per day for a maximum of two years.

The ruling coalition of Prime Minister Mark Rutte's liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) and its left-leaning Labour Party (PvdA) partner agreed the bill after winning a 2012 election.

If approved, it will become law on Jan 1, 2015.

A separate bill that would require prisoners to contribute to the costs of the investigation that led to their conviction is also under consideration.

The two bills would generate 65 million euros a year for the Netherlands' cash-strapped prison system which, according to official statistics, holds some 12,100 inmates.

The Netherlands last year announced it would close down at least 19 prisons as a result of budget cuts, leading to the loss of 2,000 jobs.

Alkema said Teeven's proposed law was "in line with other countries where contributions are made by convicted detainees, either in the cost of their arrest or their stay in prison".

The Offenders' Association (BWO), a Dutch prisoners' rights group, said the plan was against European human rights rules which say that the state must pay for prisoners' detention.

"The deputy minister wants prisoners to pay for two years, that makes a tidy sum of almost 12,000 euros," said BOW head Pieter Vleeming.

"Now you want to send a prisoner who has no money, who has lost everything while in jail, with (this) debt into the outside world?" "That's not really promoting crime prevention," he said.

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