Unlocked: the empty prisons being put to good use in the Netherlands

It is the most recent example of jail buildings in the Netherlands being repurposed, often in socially useful ways. Simply 20km away, in Haarlem, the previous De Koepel prison is being converted into a multi-purpose website to include student accommodation and social housing– answering a nationwide lack of both.

” In the Netherlands [compared to the UK], the jails are − by and big − better preserved, better staffed, more large and more good places,” explains Pakes. These are all elements that, research studies have shown, make culprits effective reintegration into mainstream society more likely.

” In the UK, to be difficult on criminal offense is framed as an option versus a danger of condition,” states Pakes. “Whereas in the Netherlands [traditionally], crime was just something the system had to react to.” The decriminalisation of soft drug usage and sex work (in 1976 and 2000 respectively) shows this pragmatic method, while financial investment in youth intervention schemes, electronic tagging, and residential take care of culprits with dependencies and psychological illness has actually promoted rehabilitation and minimised jail time.

While the British government meals out the most life sentences in Europe, under the management of a prime minister who says he is eager to see hi-vis chain gangs presented, the Dutch see the benefits of a less punitive technique. (Only around 30 people there are serving life sentences.).

On the other hand in the province of Drenthe, the National Prison Museum, housed because 2005 in a previous chastening colony, intends to open up a nuanced conversation on criminal offense and punishment, along with sharing its gruesome history.

Fatherless and looking for the approval of older boys, he got caught up in drug-selling and theft, and was serving his very first jail sentence at the age of 13. Jail only enhanced his criminal connections, he states.

Low rates of poverty, high social security and a reasonably unmaterialistic culture– in the Netherlands, being unshowy about wealth and living simply are generally valued traits– all contribute in decreasing criminal activity. And, the absence of minimum sentencing indicates that lengthy jail spells– which Dutch research links to greater reoffending rates– are rare.

Musician, author and social entrepreneur Rivelino Rigters has hung around in jail but now mentors prisoners. Image: Hazazah Photography.

As the UK starts its biggest prison structure program in over a century, with prisoner numbers practically doubling in the last 30 years, the prison population in the Netherlands is entering the opposite direction. Apart from a little rise in the previous 3 years, it has otherwise been gradually diminishing. Today, the imprisonment rate per capita is half the UKs; there are far fewer repeat offenders; and reported criminal offense continues to decline. At times, the Netherlands has actually even turned to importing convicts from abroad to fill its empty cells and keep some jails open.

A vast X-shaped building marks the area on an Amsterdam map that has brought a decade-long search to a close.

The site had many advantages, not least its security, since − up until recently– it had in truth been a prison. What is now the schools freshly painted theatre with glossy chestnut-coloured beams was, up until 2013, the jail chapel. And the mirrored dome at the structures heart was a way to survey the 4 corridors branching off from it.

” Locking someone up is not a way to resolve the problem,” Rigters firmly insists. “Sometimes it just makes it bigger due to the fact that, for some people, criminal offense was either their last hope or there was no other method to make a living.”.

Reeling from the Nazi profession during the 2nd world war, the Netherlands had ” a strong sense of the dangers of an overbearing state and the scaries of imprisonment”, discusses Francis Pakes, a Dutch national and teacher of criminology at the University of Portsmouth. This implied that jail sentences were used more moderately than before the war, and detainees were usually treated with greater humanity.

” Weve kept the wings. They simply worked really well for each of the school sections,” explains the schools interaction supervisor Lisa Harrison, who says the joyful atmosphere in the structure “surprises everyone”.

Rather, Rigters organisation Criminal Minded, which coaches present and ex-prisoners to access the networks and abilities they need to rebuild their lives, is common of the more personalised techniques now being trialled. It concentrates on culprits “talents, possibilities and strengths” and “what requires to be healed in order for them to take positive actions forward”.

” We now know better that if you wish to turn those lives around, just being punitive is not going to cut it,” Pakes concludes. “It needs something much more wholesome than that.”.

Quirkier usages have actually likewise been discovered. Utrechts Wolvenplein produced a city beach within the steep walls of its exercise backyard, while − before its demolition − Amsterdams Bijlmerbajes offered employment for some of the asylum applicants temporarily housed there, by transforming 15 cells into a Syrian hammam.

The prison-based design of justice may have served its time, believes Pakes. “What you discover in the Netherlands when you speak with senior policemans, prosecutors or judges, is that extremely couple of individuals have anything positive to state about the effect of imprisonment,” he says. “Nobody actually thinks it works.

A spiral staircase at Haarlems De Koepel jail, before its improvement. Image Olaf Kramer.

The Dutch nation has actually minimized its jail population to such a degree that its now turning old prisons into socially beneficial structures such as schools and refugee centres. What went?

Three repurposed Dutch prisons.

Spread throughout 3 maxed-out schools, with practically 1,000 trainees on roll, the British School of Amsterdam had struggled to keep up with the capitals growing need for international education. That was up until it discovered the striking 14,000 m2 property, which it moved into in April.

1. A night in the nick– the hotel and dining establishment.

Hotel Het Arresthuis in Roermond. Image: Hotel Het Arresthuis.

In the city of Roermond, buildings now inhabited by the Hotel Het Arresthuis and its Michelin-starred restaurant Damianz formed a state jail from 1863 to 2007. It apprehended primarily drug smugglers and illegal immigrants in its last years. Organized around original cast iron staircases and terraces, the spaces vary from convenience cells to a luxurious suite.

2. The lock-up thats looking up– the service centre and library.

The moated entryway and powerful spires of the Blokhuispoort prison in the city of Leeuwarden now welcome visitors to a cultural organization centre. Its created to enhance financial investment in a province with the lowest GDP nationally. The Alibi hostel, with its disallowed windows, offers affordable lodging, while the change of the prison chapel into the citys main library was finished earlier this year


3. Gluttons for punishment– the escape video game.

Main image: The previous Boschpoort prison in the city of Breda is now the FutureDome entertainment location. Credit: Prison Escape.

What is now the schools freshly painted theatre with shiny chestnut-coloured beams was, up until 2013, the jail chapel. At times, the Netherlands has actually even resorted to importing convicts from abroad to fill its empty cells and keep some jails open.

The decriminalisation of soft drug use and sex work (in 1976 and 2000 respectively) reflects this practical technique, while financial investment in youth intervention schemes, electronic tagging, and domestic care for wrongdoers with dependencies and mental health issues has actually promoted rehab and reduced prison time.

Beneath the gigantic panopticon of Boschpoort penitentiary, a cast of 80 stars lead 400 inmates in orange scrubs through an adrenaline-filled escape experience. Elsewhere in and around the structure– rebranded the FutureDome — areas have actually been utilized as a meeting centre for people with autism, momentary real estate, a pop-up theatre and an ice rink.

, the prisons are − by and large − better kept, much better staffed, more large and more good places,” explains Pakes. The moated entrance and powerful spires of the Blokhuispoort jail in the city of Leeuwarden now welcome visitors to a cultural company centre.

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