Netherlands will close 19 of its prisons over the next few years because the cost of maintaining them is too high. The reason why the prisons aren’t cost-efficient, however, is something of a national blessing: thanks to the country’s steadily declining crime rate, thousands of prison cells are going unused.
The news was first reported by the Telegraaf, which obtained government documents disclosing the plan to close five jails. The documents also showed 1,900 prison employees would lose their jobs.
The reason for the closings is two-fold, reports Dutch News: according to Ard van der Steur, the Dutch minister of security and justice, judges are granting shorter sentences, meaning criminals spend less time in jail. But there has also been a decline in more serious crimes. In recent years, the Netherland’s crime rate has declined about 0.9% on average every year, according to Dutch News.
The Netherlands has been facing this good-to-have problem for years now: the country closed eight jails because of the falling prison population in 2009, and shut down another 19 in 2014. And other countries started paying attention: in 2015, Norway transferred more than 1,000 of their inmates to a jail in the Netherlands because it was seeing the opposite trend—there was not enough room for all its criminals in its jails.