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The Netherlands:a Land without Prisons




Soaring crime rates and law-and-order backlash are hardly unique to the United States, but not all countries have taken the llock-'em~up-and-lhrow-away-the-keyT approach. Many nations, in fact, have largely shelved the punitive psychology in dealing with criminals — and none more forthrightly than Holland. The Dutch have adopted an innovative and remarkably humane system of dealing with law breakers, with the result that the Netherlands is close to becoming a land without prisons. And the policy is apparently paying dividends: crime is certainly climbing much more slowly there than in all other countries.

The Dutch hold the view that harsh treatment and get-tough attitudes only aggravate the problems that lead a person to crime. "A prison sentence does little to 'resocialise a person3, says vice-president of the Hague Court "It more likely leads to rancour and bitterness. A mild sentence, possibly even just a fineT shows an offender that society cares about him." Because of this benevolent concept fewer and fewer people are serving time in Holland

Whenever possible, the Dutch prefer to fine law breakers rather than clap them in jail But even for those imprisoned, every effort is made to provide an environment that will rehabilitate the convicts. While, as one official put it, "Dutch prisons are not Hilton Hotels," neither are they ugly fortresses full of cellblocks and harassment. Several prisons in Holland are country villas with only a handful


Chapter V. Imprisonment: Retribution or Rehabilitation? 177

of prisoners. In many institutions prisoners are allowed to wear their own clothes and keep personal possessions; they are given comfortably furnished rooms with such homey items as curtains, and they often are allowed to work outside the prison or leave from time to time to visit their families.

-Moreover, Holland has an extraordinary one-to-one ratio between prisoner staff members and inmates. "Our objective,1' says the Deputy Prison Director, " is not to make life pleasant for prisoners, but to normalise it as much as possible to prepare the prisoners for a return to society.11

Dutch officials maintain that their philosophy of short prison sentences and humanitarian treatment is essential if convicts are not to become repeaters- "A heavy sentence/* they say, ''keeps a person out of possible mischief longer, but it merely postpones and aggravates the problem of recidivism.1'

Given that kind of success, it is not surprising that Holland's liberal penal philosophy has won applause.

TASK 7. Explain the meaning of the following words and expressions from the text above:

0 soaring crime rates

« law-and-order backlash

» 'lock-'em-up-and-throw-away-the-key1 approach

« to shelve the punitive psychology

9 get-tough attitudes

m to resocialise a person

о benevolent concept

e homey items

9 to become repeaters

TASK 8. Render the following passage into English paying special attention to the words and expressions in bold type:

Швеция прославилась своим гуманным отношением к лю­дям, преступившим закон. Особый интерес вызывают качествен­но новые подходы к решению задач борьбы с преступностью в рамках исправительных учреждений. В основе альтернативных программ лежит идея, состоящая в том, что преступление по­рождено обществом, социальной средой, сформировавшей нару­шителя. Преступники становятся таковыми из-за жизненных невзгод, и только особо опасных преступников следует заклю­чать в тюрьму — изолировать от общества. В связи с этим в Швеции, стране с высоким уровнем жизни, совершенно иная тен-



Just English. Английский для юристов


динции борьбы с преступностью: в большинстве случаев мера наказания за совершенное преступление —- это не заключение иод стражу, а взимание штрафов и нробация, т.е. надзор за ус­ловие) осужденными. Существуют также специальные медицин­ские учреждения, которые оказывают психологическую помощь нарушителям закона и построены так называемые 'промьгшлен-ные тюрьмы', где заключённые работают в цехах и мастерских.







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