Prisons took into account the release of inmates due to pandemic last year
The Dutch government expected to release prisoners in March 2020 due to the outbreak of the coronavirus crisis. Unrest and deaths in prison facilities were part of the emergency scenarios as a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus, the NOS based on documents from the Custodial Institutions Service (DJI).
The service ordered an additional 1,500 ankle monitors to keep an eye on detainees in case they were released early due to the pandemic. At least 80 percent of the sentence would have had to already be served in order to be eligible for early release.
Ultimately, 175 inmates were given longer leave with an ankle monitor in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in prions. Half of the ankle monitors are still in use. The DJI hoped to sell the remaining half in order to make up for the 1.5 million euros spent ordering the extra monitors.
DJI also expected unrest to break out among inmates. This did occur on several instances at the beginning of the pandemic. Detainees, for example, refused to go back to their cells after being allowed out to the fresh air. “The council indicates that action had to be taken at three establishments due to tensions after installing coronavirus measures”, a report from March 25, 2020, stated. Seven inmates were placed in a special hold for two weeks as a result.
Hundreds of inmates had to be quarantined as a preventive measure. For months, detainees were not allowed to receive visitors or go on leave. These measures have only recently been lifted. “It was annoying but this has kept the number of infections to a minimum”, head of a special coronavirus prison crisis team, Erik de Borst said.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the DJI set up a crisis organization comprised of around 20 representatives from prisons, clinics and other sectors of the DJI. “We quickly prepared for the worst-case scenario”, De Borst said.
The documents showed plans to set up a hospice in the event should inmates die due to Covid-19. Such a hospice did not prove to be necessary. “We did not know where it would end”, De Borst said. A special Covid department was set up, nonetheless, where around 30 inmates were relocated to after becoming infected with the coronavirus.
The prison system also struggled with a shortage of medical equipment at the start of the pandemic. Prisoners were, therefore, set to work making 150 thousand face masks. These masks could, in the end, not be used because they did not meet official standards. They were only allowed for the transport of inmates to and from the prison.