Link #77: Netherlands Closed 19 Prisons Because of Lack of Prisoners!
In our earlier article, we explained how Switzerland had painted some of its prison cells pink in order to help inmates calm down quicker. The cells were painted pink as a result of research that the colour pink has a calming effect on adults and children alike.
However, Netherlands may never need to paint its prisons pink. This is because Netherlands has a dwindling population of prisoners which is not surprising since Netherlands is known across the world for its progressive laws. What’s more, their system works better than that of the United Kingdom or United States of America. How can we say this? We can say this because in the last six years, Netherlands has closed down about 19 prisons!
Why Would Netherlands Close Its Prisons?
Netherlands didn’t choose to close down 19 prisons in the last six years. Instead, it had to. In the simplest of terms, the prisons had to be shut down because the country was at a point where it had more prison staff than prisoners. That’s right; they had to shut down their prisons because they didn’t have enough prisoners to put in them!
Netherlands first decided to close eight of its prisons in 2009 because the number of inmates had gone below their total capacity. At that time, these prisons could’ve held 14,000 prisoners but only had 12,000.
In fact, the crisis of prison under crowding had become so severe that Netherlands had more prison staff than inmates at the time. In 2008, there were around 9,700 prisoners in the country and approximately 9,900 prison staff including guards.
Why Does Netherlands Have So Few Prison Inmates?
There are around four reasons why Netherlands has so few prison inmates. The first is that the country’s crime rates are declining in general. The second is that Netherlands’ penal system puts special focus on rehabilitation of criminals. The third is that the country has more progressive drug laws than others. And, the final is that Dutch prisoners have the option of choosing electronic tagging.
While the first three reasons play more of an umbrella role in deterring crime, the last one is more direct and active. Prisoners in Netherlands are given the option to either go to jail (incarceration) or wear an electronic tag.
The electronic tags allow authorities to track the whereabouts of the individual while allowing him to move about freely in his life and even take on work normally. Effectively, a criminal or prisoner gets the option to be free, take care of his family’s wellbeing, and contribute to the society while being monitored. Estimates in Netherlands say that the electronic tagging procedure has helped save up to $50,000 per person every year.
What Does Netherlands Do With Empty Prisons?
Netherlands has a two-pronged approach to the problem of prison under crowding. The first is that they are going to cut about 3,500 jobs. This is a forced decision as it would be impossible for prison staff to outnumber the inmates. The second solution to this problem is that Netherlands is renting out its prisons to other countries.
Netherlands already has deals in place with Belgium and Norway to house their prisoners along with their staff, with a Dutch prison warden in charge. Netherlands right now houses 550 Belgian inmates and 300 Norwegian inmates.
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