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Old 01-19-2006, 11:26 AM   #1
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Dutch open 'Big Brother' prison

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- At a high-tech prison opening this week inmates wear electronic wristbands that track their every movement and guards monitor cells using emotion-recognition software.

Authorities are convinced the jail in Lelystad -- quickly dubbed "the Big Brother Prison" by the local press -- represents the future of correctional facilities: cheap and efficient, without coddling criminals or violating their fundamental rights.

Detainees will be kept in six-man dormitory cells. They will do their own cooking, washing and organize their own daytime schedules via a touch-screen monitor at the foot of their beds.

"We hesitate to compare it to a youth hostel because the biggest part of being punished is that you've lost your freedom," Justice Ministry spokesman Hans Janssens said.

Prisoners have limited choices for their activities -- electives include drug education classes and exercise -- and they are locked in their cells at night.

Unlike the "Big Brother" television program, camera surveillance is limited to public spaces -- not on bunk beds or in bathrooms.

Cells are equipped with microphones that relay information to the prison's control center, where software analyzes sound volume and rhythm to alert guards when a violent confrontation between inmates may be taking place.

Prison officials expect to save money: The estimated cost per prisoner is $125 per night, compared with $170 at other Dutch prisons. Because monitoring is easier, the Lelystad facility requires far fewer guards.

Pieter Vleeming of the European Organization for the Protection of Prisoner's Rights said prisoners should be given more opportunity for self-improvement and job training, though he generally gave the prison positive marks.

"From a punishment point of view there are no objections," he said. "You could call it progress."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Old 01-19-2006, 10:02 PM   #2
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