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Friday, May 05, 2017

Prisons in the Netherlands

BBC World Service - Assignment , Prisons for Rent in the Netherlands

"Many are scratching their heads over the astonishing decline in Holland's prison population. It's a complex jigsaw... Drug addiction is treated more as a health issue than a crime. That cuts reoffending...

'What we try to do in the Dutch prison service is that we look at the individual. If you've got an aggression problem we try to give you an aggression regulation training. If you have a drug problem, we try to help you solve your drug problem. If you have debt we help try try and solve your debt. So if you take away the reasons for committing crime, there's a chance that someone will not need to commit crime. Over the last 10 years, we've improved that way of working more and more. One very important measure in the Netherlands is that you have those criminals that commit smaller crimes again and again and again and at some point we started to give them a choice. You can either change your lifestyle and accept help and we're going to help you change your lifestyle, or we're going to put you in prison for 2 years. And then again we help you change your life and I think that measure has been very effective'

'Fewer than 10% of the detainees on this scheme go back inside after their release. By way of comparison, more than half of the inmates released from prisons in England and Wales and the United States reoffend within 2 years'...

By international standards, prisoners here don't spend much of the day in their cells. They have 4 hours labouring in the fields or workshops and 4 hours to play, go to the library or hang out in the yard.

'So now we're in a big sort of quadrangle with grass and trees in the middle. There're picnic tables, there's a voleyball net, there's a little tennis court. Could look a bit like a college campus. And you walk past these magnificent oak trees'...

The open space aids rehabilitation...

The Netherlands now imprisons 57 people per 100,000 of the population, Europe's lowest incarceration rate bar Finland. But just a decade ago, the Netherlands had the second highest proportion of inmates on the continent. In the more distant past, the country locked up even more of its citizens...

'The groceries are cheaper in the Netherlands than in Norway'...

Today the lingua franca at Norgerhaven is English. Working in a foreign language was tricky at first, says Frank, one of the guards. But that's not all.

'Our toughest problem is now prisoners brewing their own alcohol... they were actually very creative with it and we also learned a lot from it... fruit which are provided here... you let it stay for a while with a certain temperature. There will be a very bad smelling and ugly tasting liquor'...

'Lawyers are making our investigations very difficult when it comes to procedures, when it comes to forms. All kinds of regulation, that we need about 2 times more time for an investigation than in the past... you have the same amount of policemen'...

Ministry of Justice figures showing that 12,000 people who have already been sentenced have yet to go to prison. A special police unit set up to look for those with 4 months or more to serve only managed to track down 1 in 6 of the criminals on its hitlist. A few have fled abroad while others disappeared or rather failed to report to prison when summoned"


Norway sends prisoners to Dutch jail because its own are too full - "At Norgerhaven, inmates serving long sentences can plant vegetables in the garden, raise chickens, cook and enjoy the pastoral surroundings from their cells. “It’s a very cushy prison, a pleasant prison,” Kenneth Vimme, who is serving a 17-year sentence for murder and who volunteered for a transfer, told Norwegian public television NRK. But he complained that inmates transferring would get fewer TV channels... The Netherlands has also rented out prison space to Belgium"

Netherlands doesn't have enough criminals to fill its prisons as crime to drop - Telegraph - "Karl Hillesland, Dutch prisons' director, told the country's broadcaster RTV Drenthe last month that there is even a “small waiting list”, partly due to the success of promotional films shown in Norway. Everything happens in English, and Mr Hillesland added: “I think the basic values and what we mean about how a sentence should be served is about the same”... The drop in prison sentences is attributed to an older population – less likely to commit crime – and steep fall in violent offences that lead to prison sentences. There are shock exceptions such as the decapitation of Nabil Amzieb two weeks ago in suspected gang violence in Amsterdam, but figures from the Dutch statistics office, the CBS, show a dramatic 10-year drop in crime victim rates. Recently there has also been a focus on not prosecuting victimless crime and on rehabilitation: shorter sentences, more electronic tagging, programmes on job skills and re-entering the community. One notorious Dutch prison, Het Arresthuis in Roermond, near the German border, has found a new life as a luxury hotel... Frans Carbo, head of FNV, said there was another story. “The ministry puts everything down to a decrease in crime in the Netherlands, partly related to the ageing population,” he said. “Actually, the ministry of security and justice is already cutting back and reorganising the whole chain. This starts with police, where reorganisation is failing, so they are not as good at detection and a lower percentage of crime is solved than ever before"

Dutch jail popular with Norwegian prisoners: less work, more phone time - "Among the differences with the Norwegian regime: the prisoners get more time outside and work less. They also get more telephone time with their families and can keep contact via Skype... Prison personnel, who are Dutch, are also happy with the behaviour of their charges and describe the Norwegians as being better mannered than their Dutch counterparts"
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