Going Dutch: Can we follow the Netherlands and cut our prison population?
Since 2004 the total numbers incarcerated in the Netherlands has fallen from more than 20,000 to less than 15,000. The Dutch Ministry of Justice expects the number of prisoners to continue to decline and to average less than 9,000 by 2015. The Netherlands now uses the spare capacity to lease space at Tilburg jail to house 500 prisoners from Belgium, whose prisons are severely overcrowded. Last week the new French Justice Minister outlined plans to reform prisons, and she is widely expected to re-orientate budgets away from prison building to rehabilitation.
Netherlands child protection law grants families the right to make a plan
On March 15, 2011, the Netherlands Parliament voted unanimously to amend the Child Protection Act. The Act now grants parents or guardians of a child the right to meet with family and other involved friends or close family supporters to make their own plan regarding how to care for a child of concern. The right to meet and make a plan for a child comes as a first recourse before the state and courts are permitted to intervene.
Restorative justice in the spotlight
A national report on the effect of restorative justice conferences is expected to reinforce their power in halting crime.
A Justice Department draft report looking into the outcome of restorative justice conferences across New Zealand found that criminals who went through the process were less likely to offend, Chief District Court Judge Russell Johnson told a Taranaki Restorative Justice Trust meeting in New Plymouth earlier this month.
However, the draft report, which is yet to be officially released, also appeared to show that it was not effective for criminals involved in the most serious crimes, Judge Johnson said.
Restorative justice and society
by Hans Barendrecht, Martine Cammeraat and Esther Klaassen of Gevangenenzorg Nederland, the Prison Fellowship affiliate in the Netherlands.
....The most important core value of Gevangenenzorg Nederland is the concept of merciful justice. This is an exciting concept that, at first, could seem like a contradiction in terms. It is not justice as contained in criminal law. Our judicial system is based on the principles of legitimacy and proportionality. This means that the punisher is working in accordance with the law and that the punishment is proportional to the offence or the crime. This is justice whereby the law may take its course but no restoration or fresh prospects are put forward.
On the other hand it is not the intention that merciful justice should be thought to be a denial of the existence of guilt and harm. Not at all! If that were to happen justice would lose all meaning. Without guilt there is no injustice and without harm no need for restoration.