Why the Netherlands is closing its prisons
Dutch crime statistics make damning reading for UK ministers struggling to tackle overcrowded jails
The government of the Netherlands is to close a further four of the nation’s prisons as crime rates hit their lowest level since 1980.
According to the Dutch national statistics office CBS, there are now just 49 crimes reported for every 1,000 citizens per year.
Sources told Rotterdam-based newspaper Algemeen Dagblad that prisons in Zoetermeer, Zeist, Almere and Zwaag are to be shut down by Justice Minister Sander Dekker.
The Netherlands has closed a number of its jails in recent years amid plummeting crime rates. In 2013, 19 of the country’s prisons were axed because there weren’t enough criminals to fill them, according to The Independent. A further five were shut down last year.
The DutchNews site reports that, in the face of mass job losses, the 2013 closures “led to a storm of protest from prison workers, [so] the government began ‘importing’ prisoners from Belgium and Norway to fill the gap and keep some prisons open”.
Only 700 of the 2,000 prison workers affected by the 2017 closures were moved to other roles within Dutch law enforcement.
The statistics make for damning reading for Theresa May’s government, amid rising fears about the “crisis” of Britain’s packed prisons, The Guardian says. Two-thirds of the country’s jails are officially overcrowded, the newspaper reports.
An investigation by The Observer in February found that of 118 UK prisons subject to official inspections, 68% were providing “unsatisfactory standards in at least one respect, with two in five jails deemed to be unacceptably unsafe”.
Lord Woolf, the former lord chief justice, told the newspaper that overcrowding urgently needed to be tackled.
“I’m afraid we’ve got to have a complete reassessment of the situation,” Woolf said. “Whenever there is a particularly nasty crime, what Parliament wants to do is have a new offence and put sentences up, and so we go on.”
Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme last month, Prisons Minister Rory Stewart said that the Government was looking at ways to reduce prison overcrowding, and that he was calling for a “massive reduction” in the number of people sent to prison for a short sentence.