Too many empty cells
By Michael Gregson
The Dutch have a problem that many countries would envy: a shortage of prisoners.
While countries like Britain, Italy, the United States, and Venezuela have tried to grapple with prison overcrowding, the Netherlands has such a surplus of unused cells that it has rented some of its prisons to Belgium and Norway.
It has also turned about a dozen former prisons into centres for asylum seekers.
About a third of Dutch prison cells sit empty, according to the Ministry of Justice.
Criminologists attribute this to a spectacular fall in crime over the past two decades and an approach to law enforcement that favours rehabilitation over incarceration.
"The Dutch have a deeply ingrained pragmatism when it comes to regulating law and order," said René van Swaaningen, Professor of Criminology at Erasmus School of Law in Rotterdam. He points out that the country has a relatively liberal approach to so-called 'soft' drugs and prostitution.
"Prisons are very expensive. Unlike the United States, where people tend to focus on the moral arguments for imprisonment, the Netherlands is more focused on what works and what is effective," added the Professor.
Recorded crime in the Netherlands has fallen by around a quarter over the past ten years, according to the country's National Statistics Office. That is expected to translate into a surplus of 3,000 prison cells by 2021. The government has closed a third of its prisons over the past three years and a government report leaked last year suggests more cuts are on the way.
The relative shortage of prisoners has spurred the Dutch to be creative.
At jails transformed into housing for asylum seekers, former cells for prisoners have been converted into apartments for families, though some still have the original cell doors. At De Koepel, a former prison in Haarlem, refugees play football in a large interior courtyard. Some of the converted jails also have gymnasiums, kitchen facilities, and outdoor gardens.
To make refugees feel more at home at a former prison in Hoogeveen, in the northeast of the country, the authorities removed the high exterior walls and barbed wire and refitted the former cell doors so that they could open from the inside. Jan Anholts, a spokesman for the Dutch Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, said the agency took special care not to house former political prisoners in cells, unless they felt at ease. "We want people to feel safe and secure," he said.
At a time of austerity, the Dutch Government has also been able to raise money by outsourcing empty prisons to countries with overpopulated jails.
Two years ago, Norway agreed to pay the Netherlands $30 million to hold 242 Norwegian prisoners at the high security Norgerhaven Prison. Belgium has also sent the Dutch about 500 prisoners.
At Norgerhaven, where prisoners raise chickens and grow vegetables, Norwegian convicts live under the watchful eye of a Norwegian prison superintendent and Dutch guards.
To make room for the Norwegians, long-term Dutch convicts, who make up an exclusive club in a country with only 35 adults serving life sentences, were relocated from comfortable cells, equipped with work spaces and televisions. None too pleased, they filed a lawsuit, but did not succeed in blocking the move.
Drop in crime
Criminologists say that, beyond a drop in crime, the oversupply of prisons is down to a building spree by the Netherlands in the 1990s that resulted in a glut of jails as crime decreased and the country's population aged.
The Dutch situation is in sharp contrast with Sri Lanka, where the the prison population stands at around 17,000–including more than a thousand on death row.
In a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, spoke about the appalling conditions within Sri Lankan prisons and made several recommendations.
The UN official who visited the island last year, made a series of recommendations. These include: reducing overcrowding, more modern prison facilities, and accelerating the judicial process.
The report also called for alternatives for imprisonment, such as electronic surveillance for defendants awaiting trial and non-custodial sentences for non-violent offenders and juveniles. In fact, many of the measures are already in use by the Dutch, which has allowed them to empty their jails.
Solution must be acceptable to Tamils Separate State is not a reasonable request - Former Army Commander, General Gerry De Silva RWP, VSV, USP
- India joins Wassenaar Arrangement
- A story of two blockades New York City and Yemen
- Merkel’s Germany: Shaper or Taker of a United Europe?
- Wiggy request voters to elect honest politicians
- No Natural Disasters but man-made ones –Prof. Gomes
- Rejected nomination lists SLPP packed with incompetent people – Sagala
- ‘Samurdhi Shakthi’ to be launched To showcase Samurdhi families’ talents
- Chinese worker plunges to his death at Mahabage
- Garbage mounts at Gampaha Hospital Row over incinerator
- LG Elections JVP offers protection to ‘clean’ officials
- SLFP to launch manifesto this week
- President at SLMA
- Scuffle inside temple premises Chief Monk, two others injured
- Postal Unions threaten to Strike Demand for a ‘Closed Service’
- Russian ban on Lankan tea Govt ignored earlier warning - Udayanga
- Govt has no foreign policy - Namal
- CEB unions in strike threat Over simmering bonus issue
- Malaysian PM arrives
- Russian tea row President to contact Putin
- Beetle in Lankan tea shipment to Russia Exporter to be spared says Pethiyagoda
- Canadian Police probe ‘suspicious’ deaths of billionaire couple
- Stock Market Investor losses extend to Rs 94B
- Use of polythene in political rallies CEA to take on offenders
- Draft Legislation HRCSL advice not sought – UN Experts
- Drugs and drug users on the increase
- Sri Lanka dismissed for 215 in 3rd ODI
- Bowling in T10 can help T20 skills - Amir
- Dialog Champions League Java Lane beat Navy SC
- Army in nerve racking win
- Russia making progress over doping says Coe
- Australia close to Ashes glory
- County grind 'sucks pace' out of England quicks Finn
- Nidahas Trophy 2018 SL skipper formally invites India SLC
- One dead as fans clash after Algeria derby
- Real retains Club World Cup
- Ronaldo wants to retire at Real
- 31st NYSC-Rupavahini Volleyball Tournament CEB and SLAF win men’s/women’s titles
- City make it 16 in a row
- Dialog President’s Gold Cup Volleyball Championship finals commence today
- Premier League Inter Club Cricket Tournament High scoring draw at CCC
- Dhawan, spinners seal series for India
- Premier League – Tier ‘B’ Navy and Air Force win
- Visakhapatnam will favour the home team Batsmen to dominate decider
- Jadeja hits six sixes in an over
- Ntini’s son Thando in SA U-19 World Cup squad
- SLTB AND TEA CHAIRMEN ENDORSE NO PERIL, BUT AUCTION PRICES COULD DIP
- Commercial agriculture in Wet Zone will reap high rice yields CBSL Governor Dry Zone yields low, measures needed to arrest disturbing trend
- Treasury sells dollars to CBSL From H’tota Port proceeds
- Unions go back on their word - SriLankan Chairman
- Make up your minds – Harsha tells businessmen
- Recognition for SL power supplier
- Rupee down 2.54-2.61% YoY
- GDP rate shows positive trend
- Asian stocks come under pressure as dollar struggles
- Way forward for village power producers Team Up With Large Developers WB
- Workplace practices not fit for the New Year
- Brexit deal proves critics wrong - Theresa May
- WINNING GLOBAL CEO AWARD, MY SIGNATURE HONOUR Retired Kahawatte Plantations Plc Deputy Chairman and Watawala Plantations Plc Ceo, Dr. Daniel Vasanthakumar Seevaratnam reminisces
- IPM Sri Lanka crowned overall winner at NBEA 2017
- Desktop FriMi wins global Award
- CMA Sri Lanka graduation ceremony 2017
- LOLC Micro Credit felicitates Grade 5 scholarship high-flyers
- The Singing Christmas Tree comes alive once again at MLH
- Com Bank’s Vocational Training flagship CSR project
- Govt backtracks on anti-coal policy Two 600MW coal plants coming up
- Changing Political Horizons in Sri Lanka?
- Modi’s Gujarat:Installing a Rahul Gandhi Government
- Protect Wilpattu Movement set in motion 5K strong turnout march in peaceful protest to UN office & handover petition
- Concretes & Abstracts Faith, Wayside Shrines & Urban Sprawl
- TGTE using Lawyers to challenge SL’s 6th amendment
- Nat Assets during Prabhakaran’s and Ranil’s heydays
- Mexican drug wars:Women murders on the rise
- Ahead of the LG Polls Identifying 500,000 untagged Lankans!
- Indian movie moguls Avoiding the Weinstein effect
- New Land Draft BiLL Political wrangling hinders ironing out complex land issues
- Maithri should not sit in a Cabinet sans SLFPers
- Wigneswaran sowing seeds of communalism
- SLFP supports devolution of power – Lasantha Alagiyawanna
- If Bond scammers are not prosecuted…President will lose his credibility –Bandula Gunawardena
- All information security issues are not cyber crimes
- Sirisena Presidency - A Parallax View As foretold by Sobhitha Hamuduruwo
- Blessed are the peacemakers
- Disinformation campaigns and public mistrust
- Kemadruma Yoga An evil yoga cancelling all other favourable yogas
- Sun into Sagittarius ‘Kona Month’ has just begun
- Inviting wrath of goddess Lakshmi
- Five Yoga Poses to Calm Your Mind
- Rahu in 7th House and marriage
- The Disaster Artist: The (un)making of a movie
- Our children and our cinema
- INTERPRETING ASIAN CINEMA: CHALLENGES AHEAD
- How Sanskrit journalism is slowly hogging headlines
- ice manufacturing in South Asia
- CMSC’s season finale concert
- Two documentaries on Sri Lanka in Film South Asia 2017
- Politics of nostalgia
- Kite Surfing Lanka Kalpitiya An experience of a lifetime
- Ella and mini Adam’s Peak
- A cave of history -Ravana Cave
- I don’t get asked out
- Homemade apple & Chocolate Bodywash
- THE WRITER’S KITCHENETTE HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS CUPCAKES Grinch Cupcakes
- New York Blast Terror charges filed against NY bomber
- Saga of Kohukumbure Rate Rala
- Attygalle murder and John Kotelawala Senior’s suicide