Dutch Government Faces Backlash For Being Too Good At Keeping Crime Rates Low

Jacob Bojesson | Foreign Correspondent

The Netherlands has an unusual problem with crime — it’s too low to keep prisons running.

Holland went from having one of the highest incarceration rates in Europe in 2005 to one of the lowest in just over a decade. The prison population of 8,245 marks a 43 percent decrease since the peak in 2005.

The natural consequences of the dramatic reduction in recorded crime include empty cells and 19 closed prisons. The Ministry of Security and Justice announced the shut down of eight more facilities over the next few years as crime continues declining.

Union leaders call the trend “unacceptable” since 1,900 prison workers are set to lose their jobs. Frans Carbo, a representative for the for the workers, said members are “angry and little bit depressed” over their situation.

“There is no future in it any more – you never know when your prison will be closed,” Carbo told BBC in an article published Thursday.

The government is finding creative ways to keep some prisons running temporarily. Norway and Belgium are currently leasing facilities to make up for overflowing prisons at home. Other buildings were sold or converted into refugee shelters.

A report from the Dutch Ministry of Justice released in March estimates overall crime dropping by 0.9 percent per year over the next five years.

“More than a third of cells are not used, and the predictions are that it is going to get worse,” Jaap Oosterveer, a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice, said of the report. “Obviously, from a social perspective, it is better because crime is down, but if you work in jails, it is not good news.”

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