Criminal Justice in Europe: A Comparative Study

By Phil Fennell; Christopher Harding et al. | Go to book overview
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18
The Transfer of Prisoners with Special Reference to The Netherlands and the UK

DÉSIRÉE PARIDAENS AND CHRISTOPHER HARDING


INTRODUCTION

One significant aspect of the 'Europeanization!--or, better perhaps, 'internationalization'--of national penal law relates to the possibility in recent years of the movement of convicted prisoners from one country to another in order to complete their sentences. But while this represents an important development in international co-operation in the penal field, the attempts to establish the necessary mechanisms for transfer of sentences have also made clear some of the differences in penal policy between certain countries. A study of the implementation of a policy of prisoner transfers by the Netherlands and Britain is especially interesting in this respect in bringing to light differing assumptions about the role of the penal system and varying attitudes towards the purpose of international co-operation.

The underlying problem centres around the increasing number of foreign offenders dealt with in many countries, as a result of the greater international mobility of individuals, for purposes of work, leisure, or other activities. A measure of the problem is the number of foreign nationals held in a particular country's prisons. For some time this number of foreign prisoners has been considered sufficiently large to cause general concern, which in turn has led to efforts to set up procedures for the repatriation of such prisoners. However, it is difficult to gain an exact idea of the numbers involved or to draw comparisons between different countries. Such statistics as exist are bedevilled by inconsistent definitions and categorizations. 'Foreign prisoner' may not mean simply 'foreign national' but may include any person 'born overseas'.1 Similarly, 'held in prison' may not just mean sentenced prisoners but could include those held on remand or otherwise detained (for instance, pending deportation), although it is the sentenced prisoner who is the subject of prisoner transfer schemes. Figures are collected for Council of Europe countries and North America,

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1
See e.g. European Committee on Crime Problems, Report of the Select Committee of Experts on Foreign Nationals in Prisons, 26 September 1979, PC-R-DE (79) 1, 5-6.

-363-

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