Minister sets up committee to look at prospects for people jailed for life

justice ministryJunior justice minister Klaas Dijkhof has set up a special committee to look at the possible release of people sentenced to life in prison in the Netherlands.

The committee will decide if people who have served 25 years in jail should be eligible for a reintegration programme to help them adjust back into society.

Although the committee will not decide if someone should be released, the results of the reintegration programme will be taken into account in assessing if the prisoner could be allowed back into society, the minister said.

Currently in the Netherlands, life sentences mean just that, with no prospect of early release. There are currently around 30 prisoners serving life sentences in Dutch prisons, including several gangland murderers and Mohammed Bouyeri, who murdered filmmaker Theo van Gogh in 2004.

The Dutch government has come under pressure from the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in 2013 that it is inhumane to detain someone for life with no prospect of release. Currently, prisoners serving life sentences can only be pardoned by royal decree.

Both parties in the coalition government agree with reforming life sentences. Previously the VVD had stuck to a policy of ‘life is life’, but in practice judges had largely avoided imposing life sentences, opting for the maximum temporary sentence of 30 years instead.

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