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Rehabilitating Offenders with Mental Disorders into Society: Learning from the Netherlands

Many countries have laws related to the treatment of offenders with (severe) mental disorders or impairments. However, the system created in the Netherlands stands out due to its unique approach of combining imprisonment with clinical treatment based on the culpability of the perpetrator.

In the Netherlands, courts can impose imprisonment based on the degree of culpability for the crime, followed by clinical treatment based on the degree offenders are found not culpable. This clinical treatment happens in so-called TBS facilities and is imposed for a term of two years. After two years, a court evaluates the progress of the patient based on statements by the treating experts. Treatment in a TBS facility can then be prolonged for another two years. This happens until a court decides that the patient is ready to be released back into society. In extreme cases, patients are found to not be treatable. Then, they are sent to long-stay facilities where they will stay indefinitely.


TBS facilities focus on treating the offenders. While patients can refuse treatment, this will bar their release. The treatment is aimed at bringing the patient into a state where they can be released back into society without posing a danger to themselves or others. It is required that patients take responsibility for the crimes they have committed and make use of treatment programmes offered to them.


Within a TBS clinic, patients are required to work to earn money, cook, clean, and shop, as well as focus on their personal development through education, creative activities, and sports. Additionally, patients are encouraged to be in contact with their families and friends. Due to this holistic approach, serious re-offending in patients released from TBS facilities is as low as 23%, as compared to a recidivism rate of 47% in perpetrators released from prison.


If you would like to learn more about the Dutch TBS facilities, click on this link.


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