In a world where crimes are on an exponential rise, prisons in Netherlands had to import prisoners. Read on to know how their crime rates fell so drastically
We live in a world that has been working towards making the rich, richer and the poor, poorer. With the world population being 7.9 billion as of April 2021, it is safe to assume that majority of the people have committed a crime at some point in time in their life. It may be a petty crime or a big one. Crime isn’t a new concept to the world, it’s just that ever since laws were put in place, we have more knowledge of it.
Some communities refer to crime as a sin and have been highlighted very early in legendary or mythological accounts, dating back to the tale of Adam and Eve and the theory of original sin. The only way to make sure that crime doesn’t go unpunished and people aren’t encouraged to do anything of that sought, is to put rules and regulations in place.
The Oldest Written Legal Code
The Code of Hammurabi was the earliest written legal code. It was proclaimed by the Babylonian King Hammurabi who was the ruler from 1792 to 1750 B.C. As the rate of crime grew, it became important to have prisons to detain those who could not pay the fine for their crimes. This, however, did not stop the criminals and as a result, more and more people were being detained and awaiting trial. As if over-populating Earth wasn’t enough, prisons too started becoming overcrowded.
According to World Prison Brief, the United States of America has a prison population of 2,094,000 inmates, making it the world’s most populated prison in the world. But there is one country in Europe known as the Netherlands. It is so safe that the Netherlands has to import prisoners to keep the prison running.
Prisoners Were Imported
Maybe the Netherlands was not as safe as it is now, but it definitely is so safe now that back in 2013, the country had to close 19 prisons because they didn’t have enough criminals to fill them. These closures cause a loss of employment for the citizens. The problem was so severe that in September of 2020, the country had to import 240 prisoners from Norway so that they could keep the facilities full.
A decade ago, Netherlands had one of the highest rates of incarceration in Europe. Now 57 people per 100,000 of the population have been imprisoned compared to 148 in England and Wales. Due to better rehabilitation facilities, the Dutch prison population fell from 14,468 in 2005 to 10,000 in 2019.
Facilities At The Prison
Jan Roelof van der Spoel, the deputy governor of Norgerhaven which is a high-security prison in the northeast of the Netherlands says that the Dutch service looks at the individual. “If somebody has a drug problem, we treat their addiction, if they are aggressive, we provide anger management, if they have got money problems, we give them debt counseling. So, we try to remove whatever it was that caused the crime. The inmate himself/herself must be willing to change but our method has been very effective. Over the last 10 years, our work has improved more and more.”
Along with Norgerhaven, Esserheem, which is an identical prison in the of Veenhuizen, has plenty of open space. The exercise yard at these prisons is a big as four football pitches and has oak trees, picnic tables as well as volleyball nets. Van der Spoel says that the fresh air reduces the inmate’s stress levels. The detainees are also allowed to walk unaccompanied to the library, clinic, and canteen. This freedom helps them to adapt to normal life after their sentence as compared to prisoners in other countries.
A total of 23 prisons have been shut down and converted into temporary asylum centers, housing, and even hotels since 2014. According to the justice ministry’s WODC Research and Documentation Centre, registered crimes decreased by 40% from 2008 to 2018. A criminology professor at Leiden University, Miranda Boone, studied the collapse in the prison population. She said, “There is no doubt that the prison population has been reduced very significantly in the last 13 years-an amazing and, in the western world, unparalleled development”
According to the studied by Boone, half of the people in the Dutch prisons have already received a month-long sentence, and almost half entering detention in 2018 were actually awaiting trial. This decline can be due to various factors, including more sentencing before reaching or outside of the court system-like fines- than other countries and using court-ordered mediation.
Psychological Rehabilitation Program
It can also be due to a special psychological rehabilitation program known as TBS. For a person to be referred to this program, he/she must have committed a crime with a minimum prison term of four years and have a high chance of recidivism. If the prisoner refuses to cooperate, he/she will eventually be moved to a normal high-security hospital and be confined indefinitely.
In 2018, 1,300 people were detained with a TBS ruling. They stay in a treatment center, often after their jail time, and get treated for the psychological conditions that encouraged them to commit the crime. The judges asses these people every two years and decide if the treatment should be extended or not.
Follow Netherlands System?
Looks like a fairy-tale, doesn’t it? People walking around in the prison, getting the medical help they need, etc. but all that glitters isn’t always gold. There has been a lot of public concern about psychiatric patients who sometimes do not comes back from periods of parole. A police union has repeatedly raised concerns about a crime that is simply unregistered, such as drug crime. It has led some experts to wonder if the Netherlands’ low prison population may be a result of their failure in crime detection and reporting. Boone said “We try to give rehabilitation opportunities, through our TBS institutions. But if we don’t prosecute serious criminal behavior, then there’s not a reason to be proud.” Truer words could not have been spoken.
While we cannot change the world at large, we can show kindness to others. Yes, there are bad people in the world but every action has a history. No one is born a criminal, it’s the circumstances that can make or break a person. If treating prisoners with kindness and by giving them a good life can prevent them from committing any crimes in the future, it definitely is worth a try. They are humans after all. You cannot just shove a person into a cold dark room and expect them to become better. Maybe the world can follow Netherlands’ steps and make the world a better place to live.