The Netherlands: Oligopoly dynamics in the Dutch penitentiary system

Kees de Groot, Sipco Vellenga

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


The way the Dutch penitentiary system deals with religion reflects a relatively long history of religious diversity. Representatives of organized denominations – religious or secular – are allowed to participate in a system that gives chaplains (called ‘spiritual counselors’) a status as civil servants, while they are directed by their own head of chaplaincy (religious or Humanistic). This system favors, or even promotes, the formation of organized worldviews. Thus far, Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Humanists, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists have succeeded in obtaining a position in this system. Representatives of other religions are also welcome as chaplains, but are not salaried by the state and integrated in the judicial system: they remain visitors with special privileges. The first salaried Muslim chaplains entered prison in the 1990s. Therefore, the ‘prison imam’ is less associated with direct political motives in countering radicalization among Muslim detainees. Indirectly, the Dutch system regulates religion by promoting the formation of distinct categories, such as ‘Humanistic’ – resulting from a campaign for the interests of the not-religious detainees – and ‘Muslim’ – an umbrella term for all the different detainees who have an affinity with Islam, now considered as belonging to one ‘background community’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReligion and Prison in Europe
Subtitle of host publicationA Contemporary Overview
EditorsJulia Martínez-Arino, Anne-Laure Zwilling
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-36834-0
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-36833-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020
EventThe making of Muslim chaplaincies in prisons: Comparative approaches - Université Paris-Saclay/ EHESS, Paris, France
Duration: 24 Nov 201625 Nov 2016

Publication series

NameBoundaries of Religious Freedom: Regulating Religion in Diverse Societies
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
ISSN (Print)2214-5281


ConferenceThe making of Muslim chaplaincies in prisons


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