Prisons Are Shutting Down In The Netherlands Due To Lack Of Criminals

Source: Adobe Stock / Wikimedia Commons

The world is amazed at how quickly Netherlands jails are emptying. In recent years, over twenty jails have been turned into hotels and asylum centers. Some have even been rented out to neighboring countries. However, if you closely follow the Netherlands justice system, it will come as no surprise to you.

The Netherlands understands that true justice goes beyond imprisonment. This has shaped its policies, which are a rich blend of humanness and justice. Join us as we find out the reason behind the steady fall in the number of prisoners.

The Blueprint to Rebuilding Lives

Imprisonment is not a dead end in the Netherlands, but a route to redemption. Immediately you get into prison, you begin the journey towards change through rehabilitation. Rehabilitation isn’t a buzzword but a personalized journey that prisoners take with the help of the Dutch probation services and municipalities.

Source: Freepik

The probation service becomes a support system, helping detainees understand their limitations, possibilities, and personality. In the end, they can build their reintegration goals.

The rehabilitation program includes vocational training, counseling, therapy, and educational programs.

They also go the extra mile to help detainees smoothly reintegrate into society once they are released by assisting with accommodation, work, debt restructuring, identity documents, and care.

Imprisonment Is The Last Resort

In the Netherlands, judges must think deeply before handing out sentences because imprisonment is a last resort.

They must consider other alternatives like unpaid work, fines, damages, restraining orders, and confiscation of criminal property. So, often, minor offenders get alternative sanctions instead of prison sentences.

Source: Freepik

The Dutch justice system echoes the belief that locking someone away rarely does them any good. So, in a calculated dance between consequences and compassion, offenders are allowed to pay for their crimes through other means. Imprisonment only becomes the go-to when it’s the best option.

Detention Outside the Four Walls of Prison

Electronic detention is an option the Netherlands has happily embraced. But it’s only available one year before release. It’s also a period of responsibility for prisoners as they must follow several guidelines.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Francois GOGLINS

Offenders are not allowed to use alcohol or drugs. Instead, they are expected to get a job, begin a study program, or take up community work. The Netherlands’ electronic monitoring provides a blend of accountability and opportunity.

Prisoners are expected to follow the guidelines and avoid crime. Neglecting this is a surefire way to earn a ticket back to prison.

Shorter Terms are More Humane

The Netherlands has long shown its solidarity with humane treatment when it abolished the death penalty in 1870. This mirrors its commitment to preserving human life. Another secret behind its empty jails is that it prefers shorter sentences to longer ones.

Source: Unsplash/Maria Oswalt

Life sentences are sparingly given. Instead, the judicial system leans towards terms that give room for reflection, rehabilitation, and possible reintegration into society.

This approach not only shows a commitment to human rights but also a belief in the transformative power of justice. Once again, the aim is not to make criminals pay for their crimes but to give them a second chance if possible.

Your Criminal Records Can Halt

Even juveniles get a chance at redemption in the Netherlands through the HALT program for first-time minor offenders. HALT is an acronym for “Halt aanranding, agressie, drank en drugs, overlast en vernieling.”

In English, it means “Stop harassment, aggression, alcohol and drugs, nuisance, and vandalism.” Geared towards juveniles aged 12 to 18, HALT bypasses the regular criminal justice system.

Source: The Imprint

Youths who commit petty crimes can join the intervention program to restore themselves. This program is not about punishment but growth. Hence, juveniles get to take part in community services and educational sessions.

They can also right their wrongs by apologizing to the victim or paying for the damage. Completing HALT becomes a passport to erase their name from the criminal record book. So, they get a second chance and a fresh start.

A Chance to Change

In the Netherlands, serious and repeat juvenile offenders find a unique chance at transformation through the GBM program. Youths with behavioral issues that don’t quite fit into the too-light or too-serious crime profile may join the behavioral program, GBM.

GBM stands for gedragsbeinvloedende maatregel. In English, it means Behavioural Influence Measure. Each juvenile enrolled in GBM receives a customized plan, tailored to their specific actions.

Source: Unsplash/Maria Oswalt

The picture comprises targeted training or treatment sessions, addressing issues such as aggression or a course on drug and alcohol withdrawal. It could span from six months to a year. So, youths get enough time to reshape their paths toward a brighter future.

Mental Health Matters

In the Netherlands, the link between mental health and criminality isn’t taken for granted. Instead, it takes center stage through TBS. TBS is an acronym for “Terbeschikkingstelling” or Detention Under Hospital Orders. This program extends a hand of fellowship to prisoners who cannot be entirely held accountable for their crimes because of their mental disorders.

Source: Pexels/RDNE Stock Project

Behavioral experts first assess the individual to know if they qualify. For those deemed fit, TBS can either replace or complement their prison sentence. TBS combines therapy, psychiatric care, and rehabilitation programs to provide a holistic approach. The goal is to check the risk of reoffending. But, even after treatment, some offenders may still be considered too dangerous to go back to society.

Decriminalizing Marijuana Use And Legalizing Sex Work

The Netherlands jails are empty because it has carefully chosen its battles. Currently, the country has embraced the decriminalization of marijuana and the legalization of sex work. The state has shown its support for sex workers by enforcing regulations to ensure the safety and rights of sex workers. This includes placing an age bracket for sex workers and patronizers.

Source: Unsplash/Elsa Olofsson

Brothels also need licensing to ensure that they meet hygiene standards and prioritize the well-being of sex workers. On the other end, it’s no longer a crime to use small amounts of marijuana. But this policy of tolerance doesn’t extend to harder drugs, which are still frowned upon and illegal.

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Richard Brennhan

Written by Richard Brennhan

Richard Brennhan is a dynamic writer whose life journey has been marked by an unwavering dedication to crafting viral and impactful content. Born with an innate passion for storytelling and an insatiable curiosity, Richard has consistently pushed the boundaries of creativity and successfully harnessed the power of the written word to captivate global audiences.

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