Garry Piggott: Crime can pay

There is more than meets the eye to justice ministry plans to open up Dutch prisons to German criminals, says Garry Piggott.

Leaving aside the wisdom of putting a man of such questionable morality and dubious intelligence as Fred Teeven in charge of anything, let alone a key ministry, what are we to think of the junior Justice minister’s latest plan to import prisoners from Germany?

Teeven announced last month that he wanted to close down a large number prisons, detention centres and psychiatric units in the Netherlands, and cut 3,700 prison jobs, ostensibly to save some €340m in government spending.

Now we know this was merely an overture for the current government’s plans to put the prison service in the hands of private companies, which will be looking to prove one thing and one thing only: that crime really can pay.

Of course, the budget cut ruse was always something of a red herring, as the bulk of any short-term savings would be gobbled up by the redundancy payments and benefits for the thousands of unemployed prison workers, plus the employees of local companies likely to go bankrupt when the prisons close.

Two for the price of one

And where would we put all the new prisoners put behind bars as a result of the tough on crime stance already taken by Teeven’s boss, justice minister Ivo Opstelten, not to mention his promise of longer sentences for serious crimes.

Well, Teeven said at the time, we’ll be releasing a lot of prisoners to sit out their sentences wearing ankle bracelets and those left behind will simply have to double up in the cells left.

Or perhaps Teeven is hoping more criminals will be killed while committing a crime. He is, after all, the man who said dying on the job was a risk burglars took, after one burglar was beaten to death by his intended victims.

Meanwhile, the real solution to the costly prison service was already being hatched in The Hague. If our bullet-headed junior minister Teeven gets his way, corporations will soon be able to make a nice fat profit from incarceration.

Fat cats

It may have been proven repeatedly that prison privatisation doesn’t save a penny, but at least all that taxpayers’ money will be heading where it belongs, lining corporate fat cat pockets.

And what better way to soften up the prison service for lower wages and poorer working conditions than to threaten workers with wholesale redundancies? Or maybe Teeven will close the prisons first and then sell them to private players, who can take on unemployed prison workers and pay them what they like. All that matters is that they’re off the government payroll.

And who would like to bet that Teeven will not follow many of his fellow ministers into the corporate sector, and land a nice well-paid job in the privatised prison service. Now that’s what I call thinking ahead.

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