According to the news reports, Netherland has closed many of its prisons and filled the remaining few with prisoners from other nations. The reason behind such inspirational achievement is the low incarceration rate which is the rate at which a national puts its criminals behind the bars.
Despite the drop in the country’s crime rate, the Netherlands’ secret for emptying prisons might very well be treating prisoners like human beings. And it’s working really for them.
By offering special rehabilitation to people with mental illnesses, the Dutch justice system is cutting the jail population. This system is based on prevention and understanding rather than punishment.
People committing crimes often face fines and/or are forced to attend psychological rehabilitation programs. Jail times simply being reduced after long jail sentences were proven to be ineffective.
Dutch criminology researchers for years have pointed to the effectiveness of alternative sentencing. In 2013, Wermink and colleagues concluded that prison is not an effective way to reduce crime, and a study from last year showed that longer prison sentences in particular are not leading to lower crime rates.
Both community service and electronic monitoring yield better results. Although the latter is sometimes seen as a softer punishment, Wermink and colleagues found it actually decreases re-offending rates.
A 2015 study compared detainees in Belgium with sentences of between six months and three years, and found that the subjects who completed their sentence at home wearing detectable ankle bracelets were less likely to reoffend than peers who had completed their sentence behind bars.
Research into the reasons for this is ongoing, says Wermink, who participates in the Prison Project, a study examining the effects of imprisonment on the post-prison lives of offenders and their families.
“We do already know that prison has a negative effect on employability. Often it also destabilizes family situations. And the ‘prison as a school of crime’ theory could have an influence, especially when prison re-affirms someone’s criminal identity.”
Given the low incarceration rate in Netherlands, it could help the nation in encouraging tourist arrivals and thus, boost tourism.