While showing sympathy for prisoner improvement or rights is often politically dangerous for many politicians it was still felt that the accent should be more firmly on helping people to change. They do not stay in prison forever and are released at some point. It is in society’s best interests to put rehabilitation ahead of mere punishment. In that regard, the baleful influence of gangs was noted.
Dutch prisons, it seems, are emptying fast and many former ones are now used to house refugees rather than inmates. The number of prisoners in the Netherlands fell from 20,463 in 2006 to 10,102 in 2016. (In other words there are now three time more prisoners per capita in NZ prisons.)
The Dutch proportion is equal to about 59 prisoners per 100,000 population. In comparison, the United States, which has the world’s highest incarceration rate, has 666 prisoners per 100,000 population, or a total of more than 2.1 million inmates.
This has been achieved through redefining drug laws, having an ageing population, identifying those who really are mentally ill rather than criminal, limiting many sentences to one year and becoming VERY serious about rehabilitating prisoners. By having less prisoners to cope with the Dutch are able to spend more on rehabislitative processes both in tersm of their cost and weight of numbers.
It was acknowledged that we have, by world standards, a humane system that continues, though to harbour many condemned aspects that hamper prisoner improvement and unfairly punish their families (who are the really innocent parties in all this). It is sad that initiatives to improve the prison system often get downplayed in the general political scrum because nobody wants to be appear “soft on crime”; especially round election time.