Netherlands Closing 19 Prisons Due to Lack of Criminals


In 2009, the Dutch justice ministry announced the planned closing of eight prisons in the Netherlands due to a declining crime rate which was expected to continue.

Now, in 2013, there are 19 prisons scheduled to be closed. This is caused, in part, by a continued decline in crime rates. Additionally, those who are convicted are choosing electronic tagging instead of incarceration. This allows people to go back to work and continue as productive members of society. It also saves about $50,000 per year per person (about $50 million saved per year for every 1000 people).

Johnson County and the Netherlands have something in common. The average incarceration rate in the Netherlands is about 163 people per 100,000. (Source) In Johnson County, we have about the same rate of incarceration – slightly lower. (Source: 2012 Annual Sheriff’s Report – PDF)

Counties and countries with low incarceration rates typically take a different approach to criminal justice and their investment in social services.

In the Netherlands, for example, the focus is on “deterring and mitigating crime” as well as “sanctioning those who violate laws with … rehabilitation efforts.” (Source)

This is similar to the approach taken in Johnson County with jail alternatives and investing in local social services. The county recently invested approximately $2.3 million into a portfolio of local organizations that have demonstrated a history of success with improving the quality of life in Johnson County.

While progressive drug laws in the Netherlands may be partially the reason for a decline in arrests, other social factors are also at work. This points to crime reduction through changing social behavior as a key to reducing incarceration — rather than just changing the laws or telling police to stop arresting people as a method for artificially creating the perception that there’s less crime.

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  1. Economic Justice: Part II by Sharon Sumpter & Calvin Kennedy - October 2, 2013

    […] [4] Netherlands Closing 19 Prisons Due to Lack of Criminals, Johnson County Justice Center, September 14, 2013 – […]

  2. Paying alcoholics in beer - SoberRecovery : Alcoholism Drug Addiction Help and Information - December 7, 2013

    […] There is a HUGE cultural & social difference to how they handle drug and alcohol use in The Netherlands. They give them the option of getting government assistance in quitting or are allowed to continue their addiction without the fear of being ostracized and thrown in prison like we do here in the states. I’m not shocked they are giving people beer, in most of Europe they drink beer like we drink sodas here in the states, and it’s a part of their daily meal. To be honest in moderation beer is way better for you than a soda, and less than 150 years ago beer was safer to drink than water. I’m not advocating that’s a reason to drink, but you have to be objective in reading this and realize that not all countries handle addiction they way we do here in the States, and from what I read it seems to be giving those people a sense of hope and a reason to get up out of bed and be a productive member of their society. I see nothing wrong with that, and considering The Netherlands has one of the lowest crime rates in the world they are doing something that we are not here in the good ol’ USA. Netherlands Closing 19 Prisons Due to Lack of Criminals | Johnson County Justice Center […]

  3. Lack of Criminals Leads to Prison Closures in the Netherlands - MSCM - February 23, 2014

    […] Read the article here: […]

  4. Netherlands Closing 19 Prisons Due to Lack of Criminals | CSglobe - March 2, 2014

    […] Source | jcjusticecenter […]


    […] Netherlands recently announced that it will close eight prisons because of a lack of criminals. The Dutch justice ministry said […]

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