Lack of inmates forces Netherlands to close down prisons
While our own prisons overflow with inmates, the opposite is happening in Netherlands – facilities are being closed down due to lack of people to put behind bars.
Five prisons have been marked for closure in 2016, following the eight closures in 2009, as well as the 19 in 2014. Fast Coexist reports that with fewer inmates to put in cells, this makes Netherlands’ jails too costly to run. Judges are also imposing shorter sentences to the convicted.
Two factors have been identified as the cause for the lack of prisoners. One of which is the low number of crimes being committed. Crime rates have been reported to be falling at around 0.9 percent per year. The Dutch news speculates that 3,000 prison cells and 300 youth detention places will be unnecessary by 2021.
Sweden has also been closing down jails since 2013 for the same reasons, but also partly due to a 2011 supreme court ruling that shortened the sentences for drug offenses.
On the other hand, Norway has a surplus of inmates to worry about. So much so that they had “exported” 1,000 inmates to Dutch jails. The U.S. also enjoys an abundance of inmates and has the largest prison population in the world at 2.2 million incarcerated adults as of 2013.
Overall, the closing down of prisons can be seen as a good thing. It would cost the government less to maintain the prisons while the empty facilities can be repurposed, such as in turning them into transitional housing for the homeless.
However, there are some down sides. One is the loss of jobs for the prison personnel, while the other is more political. Socialist Party MP Nine Kooiman told Dutch paper De Telegraaf, “If this cabinet was really working to catch crooks, we wouldn’t have this problem of empty cells.”
It could take quite a long time before our own country could attain the same prison conditions, but at the very least, two countries have proven that it is indeed possible to lower crime rate – to the point that prisons will become irrelevant. Alfred Bayle
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