Dutch terms for different prisons

Before 1811, locking people up was typically not used as a punishment. People could be confined while awaiting trial, or could be committed to a tuchthuis (house of discipline) where they had to do hard labor.

Dome prison in Breda

Strafgevangenis in Breda. Credits: Cultural Heritage Service

In 1811, the French prison model was introduced, where people would be locked up in a gevangenis [prison]. The system was overhauled in 1821 and again in 1886. Here is an overview of the different terms and meanings. For more information about researching prisoners, see the articles about prison records and the secret register of released prisoners.


Prison Who was there?
Huis van Bewaring [House of Confinement]
  • Prison sentence of 5 days or less
  • Sentenced to 1 month or less for misdemeanor
  • Debtors held in arrest
  • Prisoners awaiting transport to another facility
  • People locked up for misbehavior or overspending, paid for by their families
Huis van Arrest [House of Arrest]
  • Awaiting trial
  • Sentenced to six months or less for a misdemeanor
Huis van Justitie [House of Justice]
  • Sentenced to six months or less for a crime or misdemeanor
Provoosthuis [Provost house]
  • Soldiers awaiting a court martial
  • Soldiers sentenced by a court martial to six months or less for a misdemeanor or crime
Huis van Correctie [House of Corrections]
  • Sentenced to four to six months for misdemeanors
Huis van Reclusie en Tuchtiging [House of Reclusion and Discipline]
  • Sentenced for crimes
  • Convicted soldiers

After 1886

Prison Who was there?
Huis van Militaire Detentie [House of Military Detention]
  • Soldiers sentenced to more than four months
Huis van Bewaring [House of Confinement]
  • Sentenced to confinement (civilians and soldiers)
  • Prisoners awaiting transport to another facility
  • People awaiting trial
  • Debtors held in arrest
Passantenhuis [House for people passing through]
  • Prisoners awaiting their destination
Strafgevangenis [Punishment prison]
  • People sentenced to a prison sentence (civilians and soldiers)
Bijzondere strafgevangenis [special punishment prison]
  • People under 18 or over 60 or people who are ill, who were sentenced to a prison sentence but unable to undergo their detention in isolation.
Rijkswerkinrichtingen [National Work Institutes]
  • People sentenced to a punishment supplementary to confinement, often because of begging, vagrancy, or public intoxication.

“Gevangenen in gevangenisarchieven” [Prisoners in prison archives], research guide, Nationaal Archief (https://www.nationaalarchief.nl/onderzoeken/zoekhulpen/gevangenen-in-gevangenisarchieven : accessed 28 January 2022).
About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist in the Netherlands. She holds the Certified Genealogist credential from the Board for Certification of Genealogists and has a post-graduate diploma in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee. She has been doing genealogy for over 30 years and helps people from across the world find their ancestors in the Netherlands. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.

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