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Do the Dutch Have a Solution to UK Prison Reform?

To some, the lives of inmates in the Netherlands may not look like punishment, but the Dutch say it works.

The Netherlands used to have one of the highest imprisonment rates in Western Europe, but jail was expensive and ineffective in preventing reoffending. So the authorities looked for alternative punishments. In Dordrecht jail prisoners can walk freely through regulated areas, and every inmate is given a key to his individual cell. Inmates are provided wardrobes with clothes, a television and their own personal bathroom. Everything is geared toward preparing them for life outside of the prison.

John, who has been in prison for two years, says that more freedom means more responsibility.

The governor of Dordrecht, Karin Winkelman, says prisoner numbers have plunged. Current occupancy at Dordrecht is 336 out of the 472 available spaces— an indication that the focus on rehabilitation, which prevents prisoners from coming back, is paying off. Low incarceration ratesare also due in part to minor offenses being punished with fines and community service.

Having doubled imprisonment numbers from 1993 to 2016, England and Wales were recorded as having the highest numbers of prisoners serving life in the EU. Overcrowding, drug abuse and inmate suicides are high. The UK government has promised over a £1 billion of improvements, but some politicians are looking to the Dutch model as inspiration.

According to the chair of the Justice Committee, Bob Neill, MP, “Reoffending costs about £18.5 billion pounds to our economy, so adopting a model along the lines of the Dutch, perhaps, is actually going to save money.”

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

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