Contrasts in Tolerance: Post-War Penal Policy in the Netherlands and England and Wales

Contrasts in Tolerance: Post-War Penal Policy in the Netherlands and England and Wales

Contrasts in Tolerance: Post-War Penal Policy in the Netherlands and England and Wales

Contrasts in Tolerance: Post-War Penal Policy in the Netherlands and England and Wales

Synopsis

The Dutch penal system has for many years been held up to the world for its humane and enlightened approach to the criminal offender. Providing an eye-opening examination of both the policy and practice of the Dutch prison system, Downs includes a fascinating comparison with prison systems in England and Wales.

Excerpt

The broad picture of contrasting trends in penal populations in Britain and the Netherlands is by now familiar to many who have even a passing interest in such matters. Over the past few years, not only have a number of sources dealt explicitly with the contrast in some detail (some of which compare the situation in the Netherlands with societies other than Britain, e.g. Rutherford 1984; Steenhuis et al. 1983), but also the theme has emerged quite distinctly in a number of television documentary series about penal policy in Britain (e.g. London Weekend Television's 'Once a Thief . . .? in 1986). As a result the contrast between the penal estates of the two societies in terms of a central and indisputable feature--that over a lengthy period there has emerged a sharp and growing divergence in the relative size of their respective prison populations--has gained widespread currency. What remains more problematic, however, are the origins, character, and consequences of that divergence and their implications for penal policy in the future.

In the years immediately after the Second World War, the Netherlands actually exceeded Britain in reliance on custodial penalties. in 1950, the average population of prisons and borstals in England was 20,474. in the Netherlands the equivalent figure (excluding political prisoners who were still held in custody following sentences for war-time collaboration) was 5,848. Rates per 100,000 of the population at risk (aged over 15 in England and over 18 in the Netherlands) were 64 and 82 respectively. the fall in the Dutch prison population began in 1947, the year that the findings of the Fick Commission on the prison system were published. Yet even a dramatic reduction of the prison population from 8,577 in 1947 to 5,858 in 1950 still left the Netherlands with a higher average number in custody than England. By 1957, however, the rates of imprisonment (daily average population) converged, and from that point onwards the rate for the Netherlands became progressively lower than that for England. By 1975, the situation had been transformed. the daily average prison population in England had doubled to almost 40,000, while . . .

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