At a time when punitive punishment is at an all time high, to hear of prisons closing (and staying closed!) sounds like a surreal concept. Not in the Netherlands.
The article recently written by Frida Garza and published on QUARTZ begins by outlining the reasoning behind the decision to close five of its prisons, it is simply too costly to maintain, particularly with their declining crime rate. An interesting statement seeing as though many western nations (i.e. the United States, Australia and New Zealand) are experiencing exponential growth in crime rates.
Dutch News reports that crime rates in the Netherlands have dropped by 0.9% and at the same time, judges have been sentencing offenders to shorter incarceration terms.
Everything I learned from my studies about crime and prisons revolved around longer and harsher prison sentences aimed at deterring criminals from committing crimes, particularly in the United States. Meanwhile, the Netherlands is experiencing a decreasing rate in crime whilst judges are handing out shortened sentences.
This tells me that what is generally thought about prison sentences being a considerate deterring factor is not all it is made out to be.
The Netherlands is not the only country experiencing this ‘good-to-have problem’. Sweden is also having to close down prisons due to a gradual decrease in crime rates and prison populations.
Whilst these northwestern European nations are indefinitely shutting it’s prisons down, others are building more and more to accommodate the ever-increasing number of offenders sentenced to prison.
How and why is this issue so contrasting to what other countries are experiencing?
One of the most intriguing areas of Criminology.
How is one concept, crime, carried out consistently across different nations, cultures and languages yet treated so inconsistently?
Here, I have taken the words describing Scandinavian Exceptionalism directly from Prof. John Pratt* in his journal article titled Scandinavian Exceptionalism in an Era of Penal Excess…
low rates of imprisonment and humane prison conditions…the roots of this exceptionalism in Finland, Norway and Sweden, arguing that it emerges from the cultures of equality that existed in these countries which were then embedded in their social fabrics through the universalism of the Scandinavian welfare state.
*Professor John Pratt is the Director of the Institute of Criminology in New Zealand Featured image found here