The reason the Netherlands Is closing its prisons is staggering, especially for the American reader: there are not enough offenders because of the country’s progressive philosophy and best practices it is using.
The Criminal Justice Alliance (CJA), representing over 60 organisations, called for the government to urgently limit “unnecessary use of prison, ensuring it is reserved for serious, persistent and violent offenders for whom no alternative sanction is appropriate”.
In 2009, the Dutch justice ministry announced a plan to close eight prisons in the Netherlands. Why? A declining crime rate that is expected to continue. In 2013, a staggering 19 prisons were scheduled to close. Officials have announced they are in the process of cutting 3,500 jobs.
How did they do it?
Primary reasons for fewer offenders and prisoners in the Netherlands include a continued general decline in crime rates, a focus on rehabilitation of offenders, progressive drug laws, and also, those convicted are choosing electronic tagging instead of incarceration.
The tagging allows people to go back to work and continue as productive members of society. Not only that, it saves approximately $50,000 per year per person (about $50 million saved annually for every 1000 people).
A prison overcrowding report last year in the Nehterlands noted that surging prison populations undermined rehabilitation of prisoners and risked increasing reoffending in the future.
Declining crime rates in the Netherlands mean that, although the country has the capacity for 14,000 prisoners, there are only 12,000 detainees, reported the nrc.nl.
The decrease is expected to continue, the ministry said, with Deputy justice minister Nebahat Albayrak saying that natural redundancy and other measures should counter any forced lay-offs.
Johnson County and the Netherlands have something in common. The average incarceration rate in the Netherlands is about 163 people per 100,000. In Johnson County, the rate of incarceration is the about the same – slightly lower. (Source: 2012 Annual Sheriff’s Report – PDF)
Counties and countries with low incarceration rates typically take a different approach to criminal justice and investing in social services.
In comparison, the United States “tough on crime” focused justice and prison systems are failing miserably. Overall, the incarceration rate is 10 times higher in the U.S. than it is in the Netherlands.
Read: Are You OK Putting Americans In Black Holes For Decades?, Dupré, May 9, 2014)
The Dutch largely kept the Napoleonic Code after their independence, but made it significantly more rehabilitative. The Dutch incarceration philosophy stresses the need to minimize hardships on the prisoner and emphasizes maximizing prisoner contacts with family and the preservation of community ties. (Downes, David. (2007) Visions of Penal Control in the Netherlands, p. 117. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007. ISBN 0-226-80664-5)
Crime rates have fallen slightly in recent years in the Netherlands but are not notably lower there than in neighboring countries,
Prisoners are able to enjoy many of the benefits of life on the outside. For example, inmates can receive visitors once a week, talk on the phone, and participate in sports.
Sources: True Activist, News 13 (Amsterdam) Wikipedia, We Are Change Netherlands, www.beyondblindfold.com, Eric Barlow
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