Torture doesn’t reduce crime

The proponents of a harsh penal system argue that being tough on criminals is the most effective way of tackling crime. A comparison between Virginia and the Netherlands makes it clear that this is a baseless argument. The Netherlands has twice the population of Virgina, twice the population density, lower per capita income, and yet Virginia incarcerates 40,000 of its population and tortures some of those — 1800 are held in solitary confinement — while the Netherlands has just 12,000 detainees — with about 20 prisoners in solitary confinement — and has in recent years closed prisons because there were too many empty cells.

The Washington Post reports: At Red Onion State Prison, built on a mountaintop in a remote pocket of southwest Virginia, more than two-thirds of the inmates live in solitary confinement.

In a state where about 1 in 20 prisoners are held in solitary, Red Onion, a so-called supermax prison, isolates more inmates than any other facility, keeping more than 500 of its nearly 750 charges alone for 23 hours a day in cells the size of a doctor’s exam room.

Virginia, one of 44 states that use solitary confinement, has 1,800 people in isolation, a sizable share of the estimated 25,000 people in solitary in the nation’s state and federal prisons.

As more becomes known about the effects of isolation — on inmate health, public safety and prison budgets — some states have begun to reconsider the practice, among them Texas, which, like Virginia, is known as a law-and-order state.

Mississippi, New York and Texas have begun to scale back the use of solitary confinement under pressure from prison watchdogs.

Now critics have set their sights on Virginia, where lawyers and inmates say some of the state’s 40,000 prisoners, including some with mental-health issues, have been kept in isolation for years, in one case for 14 years. reported: 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 on Tuesday 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.

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One thought on “Torture doesn’t reduce crime

  1. Christopher Hoare

    The size of the prison population in a state is inversely proportional to the justice, equitability, and resilience of its culture and society. The US lives in a self-created distorted vision of reality that divides the population at all levels into ‘them’ and ‘us’. How can it be anything other than a monster that feeds on its own entrails?

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