World

NETHERLANDS – The Netherlands will close five of its prisons over the next few years because thousands of prison cells are going unused due to the country’s steadily declining crime rate, and because maintaining empty prisons is too expensive.

In recent years, the Netherland’s crime rate has declined about 0.9% on average every year, according to Dutch News.

The country has already closed eight jails because of the falling prison population in 2009, and shut down another 19 in 2014.

The Netherlands places a heavy emphasis on diversion, reintegration and rehabilitation programs, which have proven to be highly successful in deterring people away from the criminal justice system and repeat offences. Those in prison are encouraged to learn new skills to help them become gainful members of society when released, and a wide range of diversionary and support programs are available to get offenders ‘back on track’ with their lives.

The country also uses tracking devices, which means some offenders can serve ‘time’ while remaining part of the community.

The Netherlands is not the first country to close jails because it does not have enough criminals.

Sweden’s prison numbers fell by about 1% per year from 2004 to 2011. Then between 2011 and 2012, they declined by 6%. In 2013, the country announced it would close four prisons and one other correctional facility. One explanation for the decrease in prison numbers, according to the Guardian, was the Swedish supreme court’s 2011 decision to give less harsh sentences for drug offences, which could have led to inmates spending less time behind bars before going back into society.