Friday 14 August 2020

Five prisons to close as falling crime rate leaves cells empty

A prison corridor

3,000 ‘spare’ cells. Photo: Depositphotos.com

More prisons will close in the next few years as the government looks to cut the cost of hundreds of empty cells, justice minister Ard van der Steur has told parliament.

The Telegraaf says it has obtained internal documents revealing that the government plans to shut five prisons, with the loss of 1,900 jobs. A further 700 staff will be given ‘mobile’ positions, though the exact meaning of this is unclear.

The downward trend in crime, which has fallen by an average of 0.9% in recent years, is expected to mean 3,000 prison cells and 300 youth detention places will be surplus to requirements in five years’ time.

Van der Steur also said that judges were imposing shorter sentences, meaning criminals were spending less time on average in jail. More serious crimes are also becoming less common, he added.

After finalising plans to close 19 prisons last year, the justice ministry said there were no plans for further cuts, but Van der Steur said the empty cells were costing the state too much.

Socialist Party MP Nine Kooiman said it was a ‘scandal’ that the government was breaking its earlier promise. ‘If this cabinet was really working to catch crooks, we wouldn’t have this problem of empty cells,’ she said.

The Dutch government has reclaimed part of the cost by importing prisoners from countries with a surplus. Last September the first of 240 Norwegian convicts were transferred to Veenhuizen jail, in Drenthe, under a deal between the two governments for an initial period of three years.

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