Since the abolition of the death penalty in the Netherlands in 1878, life imprisonment has almost always meant exactly that: the prisoner will serve their term in prison until death. The Netherlands is one of the few countries in Europe where prisoners are not granted a review for parole after a given time. Though the prisoner can appeal for parole, it must be granted by royal decree.
An appeal for parole is almost never successful; since the 1940s, only two people have successfully filed a request for clemency, both being terminally ill. Since 1945, 41 criminals have been sentenced to life imprisonment (excluding war criminals). There has been a noticeable increase of life imprisonment sentences being given in the last decade, and more than triple the number of life imprisonment sentences in the last few years than the previous decades.
However, even though "life means life" in the Netherlands, most murderers do not get a life sentence; instead, they receive sentences of around 12 to 16 years. Even the worst murderers rarely get a sentence longer than 16 years.