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Visions of Penal Control in the Netherlands (From Crime, Punishment, and Politics in Comparative Perspective, P 93-125, 2007, Michael Tonry, ed. - See NCJ-241880)

NCJ Number
David Downes
Date Published
33 pages
This essay examines the evolution of the Dutch penal policy since the early 1970s.
Following three decades of prolonged decarceration from 1947 to 1974, Dutch penal policy underwent first a gradual, then a more radical, reversal in a period of sustained recarceration after 1975. David Garland's (2001) theory of the "culture of control" emergent in late modernity to combat rising crime and insecurity is a necessary but insufficient account of the transition. Additional elements in the invocation of pathology legitimizing the transition are periods of unusually steep rise in crime rates, resort to "heart of darkness" symbolism by the media and members of key elites, and a sense of relative underprotection by a critical mass of the public. This combination of influences also drove penal expansion in England and the United States. The past half century has seen the rise and fall of penal hope in the Netherlands. It is, for penal reformers at least, a story that is both inspiring and dispiriting: inspiring because it shows that, even in a modern industrial society and in the context of modest rises in crime rates, a substantial reduction in the prison population can be achieved over decades, not just a few years; but dispiriting because even a prolonged decarceration proved unsustainable. Development in penal expansion over the past two decades represents a radical departure from those of the three preceding decades. (Published Abstract)