The Dutch prison system is facing a crisis: not enough prisoners. Across the Netherlands, prisons are closing down and prison staff are being made redundant. While other countries struggle with overcrowding, the Dutch are re-purposing their empty prisons as trendy boutique hotels.
Should more countries follow the Netherlands’ approach? The Dutch criminal justice system focuses on rehabilitative and therapeutic policies, aimed at driving down the reoffending rate and integrating prisoners back into society. Prisoners receive help with specific issues they are struggling with, from drug addiction, to debt counselling, to anger management. Thanks to this, the Netherlands now has one of the lowest incarceration rates in Europe.
Critics, however, argue that this approach is far too soft. If criminals serve their sentences in (relative) comfort, then does that mean their victims have been denied justice? Could it encourage people to break the law, because they do not fear incarceration?
Should we stop sending so many people to prison? Would a focus on reform and non-custodial sentences be a better way to reduce reoffending rates and prevent prison overcrowding? Or would it signal a “soft on crime” approach? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!