USA is a country that contains about 25 % of the world’s prison population. This means that though crime is in check, where quite a number of criminals are caught and locked up, crime is high. Now take a look at a country like the Netherlands, which is undergoing a crisis of a different kind. Empty jails!
If this is a measure of suffering of sorts where jails are empty, then Netherlands is suffering a lot. The crime rate in Netherlands is so low that there aren’t enough prisoners to fill all the prisons in the country. Bemused, shocked or what? You just read the earlier sentence correctly. The Netherlands has empty jails.
1 Prisons Are Closing Down In the Netherlands
Believe it or not, the problem of empty jails is so bad that till date 19 prisons have actually closed down. Sounds like a dream? It definitely does, because this seems to be a crime free utopia of sorts. The world can learn a lesson or two from crime management in cities such as Amsterdam, which are havens of peace.
There has been a sharp decline in the crime rate, averaging 0.9% every year. This figure is expected to remain for the next five years. What is even more absurd about Netherlands’ empty jails is that it actually imported 240 Norweginian prisoners just to keep the jails full.
2 Prisoners Are Being Imported From Norway
In total, the Netherlands has an infrastructure of 13, 500 prisons. A third of that number is near empty and five prisons are about to face closure. This will also mean the loss of jobs for 1,900 Prison workers, the only negative outcome of such a situation. Moreover, in order to retain employees, at least 700 will have to start working in more than one location at a time.
In order to try and resolve the weird empty jail problem, the Netherlands has begun leasing its jail space to neighboring countries such as Belgium and Norway. Recently 300 prisoners were imported from Belgium to be guests of the Dutch prison system and were lodged at Tillberg Prison. Likewise an agreement signed with Norway now has 240 Norwegian prisoners housed at Norgerhaven jail in Drenthe.
3 Netherlands Has Observed a Drop in Crime Rates
Because of the promotional films being screened in Norway, there is now a waiting list as per director of Dutch prisons, Karl Hillesland. According to Ministry of Justice spokesman, Jaap Osterveer, the situation is good from a social perspective where crime was low, but from the employment perspective, it was a structural problem which is now leading to prisons closing down and unemployment.
The main reason why crime is so low and Netherlands has empty jails is because it has older population, which is less inclined to commit crimes. Although, there are shocking fleeting incidents like the decapitation of Nabil Ambzieb last month because of gang violence in Amsterdam, the overall figures as per Dutch statistics showed a remarkable 10 year drop in crime rates. Moreover, Amsterdam’s correctional system doesn’t use imprisonment for victim less crimes, but rehabilitation, electronic tagging, job programmes and integration into mainstream society.
4 Prisons being converted to luxury Hotels
One of the most notorious prisons in the Netherlands was the Het Arresthuis in Roermond on the German border. Today, the Prison has been converted into a luxury deluxe hotel. This is one solution to the problem, according to spokeswoman, Margje Spatjens. She also remarked that guests were extremely positive about the hotel’s unique feature of being an ex-prison.
One of the negative remarks in this case has been made by Dutch MP Nine Kooiman, who said that the government wasn’t doing enough to catch criminals and this is why prisons lacked inmates.
According to Frans Carbo, Head of NFV, the fact that the Netherlands has empty jails is due to various reasons. An older population may be one of the factors, but more than that, it was the restructuring and reorganization of the crime management chain such as the police that has resulted in failure where crime detection is poor and solved crimes are featuring on a lower scale. He went on to say that such problems were the main reasons for empty prison cells. However, this doesn’t go down well with the government, which believes that there has certainly been a decrease in crime and hopefully it will stay that way.