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We Need More Prisoners Now! (Says Dutch Jailers)

As prison populations surge in Europe and North America, the opposite is happening to the Dutch.

The Fact:

The Netherlands is scheduled to close eight more prisons (19 others just recently), literally due to a lack of criminals. The continued decline in crime rates for the Netherlands mean that although the country has the capacity for 14,000 prisoners, there are only 12,000 detainees. What is great news to most, might also have the Netherlands prison employees and worker’s groups worried about their future careers – but the benefit should outweigh this fact. The decrease is expected to continue, the Ministry said.

The Dutch Deputy Justice Minister added that natural redundancy and other measures should counter any forced lay-offs.

The Potential Result:

The Criminal Justice Alliance (CJA), which represents more than 60 organized groups, called for the Dutch government to limit “the unnecessary use of prison, ensuring it is reserved for serious, persistent and violent offenders for whom no alternative sanction is appropriate”. The decline in serious and violent crimes, should work in concert with the need to close prisons, and it all may assist in bringing down incarceration incidents for smaller or less serious crimes. And that can only be seen by society as a good thing – right?

“The rising pressure on prisons from budget cuts and increasing numbers cannot go on indefinitely.” ~ Chief Inspector of Prisons


Success with handling crime and prisons. Is there opportunity for the rest of Europe and North America to follow suit?

How has the Netherlands managed this?

Some say their ‘medical’ approach (versus a criminal one) towards drug use and the Dutch society’s capacity for acceptance and understanding are a big part of the ‘success’ of having less people incarcerated – especially for minor or less serious crimes. Others tout their progressive approach towards economics and poverty, as well as strong social programs and an overall ‘it takes a village to raise a child’ mentality as being the biggest factor. I bet that both probably have much to do with it, and there is probably even more at work here.

There must be something in the success of the Netherlands that we can learn from in the West, and hopefully one day soon, we will also have the same ‘problem’ to deal with. Not ‘how do we afford to build MORE prisons’, but rather, ‘how can we afford NOT to close more prisons than last year?!’.

I am not going to hold my breath just yet, however..

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