Five more prisons will close in the next few years in the Netherlands, as crime rate continuously falls in the recent years and the government wants to reduce prison system’s operating costs.
The announcement was made by the Dutch Justice Minister, Ard van der Steur who has told the parliament that the government wants to cut the costs of maintaining hundreds of empty cells. The Minister didn’t give details about the prison reforms but the Dutch News website cited Dutch daily, The Telegraaf, which obtained internal documents revealing that the government plans to shut down five more prisons.
In 2015, eight prisons were shut down due to the decreasing criminal activity. Criminal activity in the Netherlands has been falling by an average of 0.9 percent in recent years. Between 2007 and 2014, criminal incidents dropped by 23 percent and the fall was observed in all categories of crime, the NL Times reported. If the decline in criminal activity continues, as expected, then 3,000 prison cells and 300 youth detention places will be surplus to requirements in five years’ time.
Van der Steur explained to the MPs that hundreds of prison cells are unused also because the judges are imposing shorter sentences and more serious crimes are becoming less common.
In recent years, in an effort not to fire prison officials due to the ongoing prison reforms, the Netherlands has leased prison cells to house inmates from Norway, with a group of 242 prisoners being transferred to Dutch jails in 2015. Inmates from Belgium also have been sent to Netherlands prisons to serve their sentences, British daily The Guardian had reported.
“In Norway there is a capacity shortage, and right now we have a surplus,” Fred Teeven, the former Dutch justice minister, told Britain’s Telegraph in 2014. “That’s why we’re doing this with the Norwegians today — to make sure we don’t have to fire people,” Jaap Oosterveer, a representative of the Dutch justice ministry, told the Independent in Britain last year.
Despite the efforts of the Dutch government not to fire prison officials, The Telgraaf reported that the prison reform would result in the termination of 1,900 employees, while 700 other workers would be given “mobile” positions.
Socialist Party MP Nine Kooiman criticized the prison reform saying that in reality criminal activity in the Netherlands is not decreasing. “If this cabinet was really working to catch crooks, we wouldn’t have this problem of empty cells,” she had said.