Dutch jail lease deal terminated

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The Norwegian government is ending its agreement to lease jail space for Norwegian prisoners in the Netherlands. Justice Minister Sylvi Listhaug claims there’s no need any longer for the extra space, and that’s pleased critics of the deal.

The Norgerhaven Prison is a high-security facility in the Netherlands where some of Norway’s long-term convicts were sent to serve their time. PHOTO: Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet

“Now the waiting lists for prisoners needing to serve their sentences have disappeared,” Listhaug said when announcing that the government won’t renew its lease at the Norgerhaven Prison in the Netherlands when it expires on August 31.

Sending prisoners to the Netherlands jail has also allowed Norwegian prison officials to rehabilitate prison space in Norway, Listhaug claimed, along with building new. That boosted prison capacity, further eliminating the need to send prisoners abroad, most of whom were non-Norwegian nationals.

Disputed deal
The agreement cost Norway around NOK 900 million over the past three years, with Listhaug claiming it was “worth every krone.” Others disagree, claiming that money could have been invested in more rehabilitation and jail construction in Norway.

The Prison Law Group at Jussbuss, the University of Oslo’s student-run legal aid clinic, had also feared that rehabilitation of the prisoners themselves was not in keeping with Norwegian policy that puts a priority on rehabilitation of people sentenced for various crimes. Law students from Jussbuss visited inmates at Norgerhaven Prison four times a year since prisoners began being sent to the Netherlands in 2015.

“Our clients’ experiences in Norgerhaven Prison have led us to believe that inmates there have received fewer and less meaningful rehabilitation opportunities than their counterparts in Norwegian prisons,” Jussbuss stated in a press release on Thursday. The law students also claim the leasing agreement raised “difficult questions” regarding jurisdiction over Norwegian inmates in the Netherlands.

Termination ‘applauded’
Jussbuss “applauds the Norwegian goverment’s decision not to prolong the agreement with the Netherlands,” it stated, adding that it also had long challenged the agreement on both legal and practical grounds.

A new Norwegian prison, meanwhile, will open in Agder in 2020, adding to prison capacity within Norway. In the meantime Norway will resort to placing some prisoners two to a cell during what Listhaug called a “transition period.” That may raise objections as well, with Listhaug due for more criticism.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

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