The Dutch justice ministry has announced it will close eight prisons and cut 1,200 jobs in the prison system. A decline in crime has left many cells empty.
During the 1990s the Netherlands faced a shortage of prison cells, but a decline in crime has since led to overcapacity in the prison system. The country now has capacity for 14,000 prisoners but only 12,000 detainees.
Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak announced that eight prisons will be closed, resulting in the loss of 1,200 jobs. Natural redundancy and other measures should prevent any forced lay-offs, the minister said.
The overcapacity is a result of the declining crime rate, which the ministry's research department expects to continue for some time.
Some reprieve might come from a deal with Belgium, which is facing overpopulation in its prisons. The two countries are working out an agreement to house Belgian prisoners in Dutch prisons. Some 500 Belgian prisoners could be transferred to the Tilburg prison by 2010.
The Netherlands would get 30 million euros in the deal, and it will allow the closing of the prisons in Rotterdam and Veenhuizen to be postponed until 2012.