In the Netherlands prisoners are given keys to their cells as crime rates fall, prisons close, and inmate populations dwindle. This is all part of a rehabilitation scheme that aims to treat prisoners better and with more humanity.
In Dordrecht, Heerhugowaard, Zaandam, and Arnhem inmates have keys to their cells where they can come and go as they please so long as they are back by 9:30pm. Additionally, they have a digital computer that lets them order things like groceries and make appointments with other prisoners and staff.
Prison guards are no too keen on the move as they complain that there is too little supervision for the inmates. They also claim that the move fails to vindicate the victims of the crimes these inmates have committed. They are afraid that prisoners are using their newfound freedom to run criminal enterprises outside of prison. These complaints have found a home at the Dutch Department of Justice.
It is not hard to imagine that criminal businesses are being run with the freedom these prisoners are afforded. Long periods of the day are spent in places other than their cell meaning criminal meetings and drug trades could be taking place regularly. The actual effects of the program aren’t being assessed as it impact isn’t being monitored as it should complain some prison staff and those opposed.
The falling population of prisoners has reached record lows as the current number stands at 11,600. With a population of 17 million the area is seeing prisons close and prison guards worrying about their next paycheck. Last September the country actually had to import 240 prisoners from Norway to maintain their prisons. Overall, this is good news for both the country and the prisoners. The government will decide on whether the program is beneficial or not in the coming months to years.