The justice ministry is to close down eight prisons, cancel new prison building programmes and cut 1,200 jobs in the sector, junior minister Nebahat Albayrak announced on Tuesday.
The closures are necessary to cut the cell surplus because of the falling crime rate, the minister told a news conference. Solving the problem was a ‘major puzzle’ which required ‘unorthodox’ measures, the Volkskrant quoted the Labour minister as saying.
The prison closures will reduce the number of prison cells from 14,000 to 12,000. The cuts will save €164m, the Volkskrant said. Three prisons will be closed this year, the rest in 2012, after the next election.
Opposition MPs reacted angrily to the news. ‘Violent crime is not going down… and we are far too willing to use community service,’ said VVD MP Fred Teeven in the Volkskrant. The minister is wrong to close down prisons because of falling demand, he said.
Independent MP Rita Verdonk, a former prison governor, described the plan as ‘absurd’. ‘The problem of street terrorism in our cities is so serious we need those prisons,’ she told the paper.
The anti-immigration PVV criticised the prison closures, which follow closely on home affairs ministry plans to halve the number of new police recruits. ‘It is obvious that the interests of criminals are in good hands with the Labour party,’ MP Raymond de Roon said.
At the same time, the Netherlands and Belgium are poised to finalise a deal which will see 500 Belgian prisoners held in Dutch jails for a temporary period. Belgium has a shortage of cells.
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