Criminal Justice in Europe: A Comparative Study

By Phil Fennell; Christopher Harding et al. | Go to book overview

1 Criminal Justice in the Netherlands

CONSTANTIJN KELK


THE IDEA OF RESOCIALIZATION AND THE REBUILDING OF SOCIETY AFTER THE SECOND WORLD WAR

After the Second World War, the penal climate of the Netherlands underwent changes towards humanization. Although this was consistent with the traditionally humane reputation (certainly when viewed from an international comparative perspective1) of existing penal culture, Dutch society as a whole became tolerant and mild as a reaction to the extreme violence of which humanity had shown itself capable during the war. The effects of this development were not lost on penal law.

The country set about rebuilding a deeply hurt and severely damaged society. One of the most important aspects for the development of penal law at that time was the emergence of the so-called Utrecht School, which is not to say, of course, that others were not influential too.2

The Utrecht School was made up of the legal scholar Pompe, the criminologist Kempe, the forensic psychiatrist Baan, and their pupils. Taking their collective disciplines as a starting point, they sought to approach the criminal offender as a human being, the central issue in criminal procedure and punishment, especially imprisonment. The essential theme of their work was an emphasis on the offender's own responsibility and on punishment as a means of making good the offence to society, after which rehabilitation could take place. They not only co-operated on an academic level in teaching and research, but were also all involved in practical work; as a substitute judge ( Pompe), as a probation officer preparing reports on offenders' social background ( Kempe), as a practising psychiatrist in an observation clinic ( Baan). They were also all members of advisory bodies, and they sat on many committees dealing with the offender's legal position.

One of the first innovations after the war was the reform of the Dutch prison system. Many well-known and respectable Dutch citizens, who would probably otherwise never have seen a prison from the inside, ended up there during the war as victims of the Nazis, and what they saw in the

____________________
1
John Howard praised Dutch houses of correction in his State of the Prisons ( 1777; bicentennial edn., Abingdon; Professional Books 1977).
2
Like Van Bemmelen and Vrij.

-1-

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