The Dutch have a prison crisis — they’re running out of prisoners

❝ While the UK and much of the world struggles with overcrowded prisons, the Netherlands has the opposite problem. It is actually short of people to lock up. In the past few years 19 prisons have closed down and more are slated for closure next year. How has this happened – and why do some people think it’s a problem?…

…Learning to cook is just one of the ways the prison helps offenders to get back on track after their release…”In the Dutch service we look at the individual”…says Jan Roelof van der Spoel, deputy governor of Norgerhaven, a high-security prison in the north-east of the Netherlands.

“If somebody has a drug problem we treat their addiction, if they are aggressive we provide anger management, if they have got money problems we give them debt counselling. So we try to remove whatever it was that caused the crime. The inmate himself or herself must be willing to change but our method has been very effective. Over the last 10 years, our work has improved more and more.”…

He adds that some persistent offenders – known in the trade as “revolving-door criminals” – are eventually given two-year sentences and tailor-made rehabilitation programmes. Fewer than 10% then return to prison after their release. In England and Wales, and in the United States, roughly half of those serving short sentences reoffend within two years, and the figure is often higher for young adults…

❝ A decade ago the Netherlands had one of the highest incarceration rates in Europe, but it now claims one of the lowest – 57 people per 100,000 of the population, compared with 148 in England and Wales.

But better rehabilitation is not the only reason for the sharp decline in the Dutch prison population – from 14,468 in 2005 to 8,245 last year – a drop of 43%.

❝ The peak in 2005 was partly due to improved screening at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, which resulted in an explosion in the numbers of drug mules caught carrying cocaine.

Today the police have new priorities, according to Pauline Schuyt, a criminal law professor from the southern city of Leiden. “They have shifted their focus away from drugs and now concentrate on fighting human trafficking and terrorism,” she says.

In addition, Dutch judges often use alternatives to prison such as community service orders, fines and electronic tagging of offenders…”Sometimes it is better for people to stay in their jobs, stay with their families and do the punishment in another way,” says Angeline van Dijk, director of the prison service…

“We have shorter prison sentences and a decreasing crime rate here in the Netherlands so that is leading to empty cells.”

The desire to protect prison service jobs has sparked another surprising solution – the import of foreign inmates from Norway and Belgium.

In a thoughtful society, one considering useful employment to be available for all, the question of prison closures is significant. One of the bright spots on that front – is importing prisoners from other countries. In the Netherlands, prisoners from Belgium and Norway are taking up residence in cells empty of local prisoners.

RTFA. Lots of anecdotal discussion. It surely would be nice in many Western nations to have a “problem” like this one.

Germany calls for Europe-wide ban on gas-powered cars by 2030


Click to enlarge

❝ After coming to the realization that they would need a mandate for all cars to be zero-emission by 2030 if they want to comply with the goals set by the Paris agreement to curb climate-warming emissions, Germany’s upper house of parliament gained approval for pushing a Europe-wide mandate to stop gas-powered car sales by 2030…

While nothing is made into law yet, the movement to stop new sales of cars equipped with internal combustion engines by no later than 2030 is starting to pick up steam.

❝ India recently confirmed that it is evaluating a scheme for all its fleet to be electric by 2030 and both the Dutch government and the Norwegian government are discussing the possibility to ban gas-powered car sales and only allow electric vehicle sales starting in 2025.

❝ Some governments are discussing actual bans on new gas-powered car sales that would virtually only allow all-electric vehicles to be registered, or potentially other zero-emission cars at the tailpipe like fuel cell vehicles, but most are discussing regulations that would gradually tax internal combustion engines and favor electric vehicles…

❝ The new push for a 2030 mandate comes as several German automakers announced important plans to accelerate their electric vehicle programs, including Volkswagen’s plan to build 2 to 3 million all-electric cars a year and unveil 30 new models by 2025 and Mercedes’ new all-electric brand: ‘EQ’.

VW has indicated recently that they’d probably start off their production of EVs exclusively in their United States facilities. Obviously, that will have to expand globally as this qualitative change takes hold.

Moored at sea, generating electricity off the island of Texel


Click to enlargeDamen

Taking just six months from the drawing board to realisation, the BlueTEC Texel tidal energy platform was installed in the summer of 2015 and is operating off the island of Texel in the Netherlands. The prototype is producing electricity from the tides into the local grid.

BlueTEC Modular was designed by Damen to be transported and installed all over in the world to provide clean energy in remote areas and small islands, replacing diesel generators.

Just before the end of 2015, the platform was fitted with a more powerful Tocardo T2 turbine and, in early 2016, the platform was commissioned with a larger T2 tidal turbine. Currently the platform generates clean electricity from the tides in the Wadden Sea of The Netherlands.

Six months start-to-finish. Replacing a diesel-powered generator. How long do you think this would take to design, approve through local, state and federal government, construct and put in place — here in the GOUSA?

Uh-huh.

Pic of the day


Attack of the Giant Tinned Calamares — Click to enlarge — Tom Janssen

From a collection of Tom Janssen photos of unusual processions and parades in the Netherlands.

Calamari is near and dear to my heart and appetite in spring. Traditional in many springtime festival meals, my favorite is serving chunks and slice of squid in a garlicky tomato sauce. Often with just a little bit too much black pepper for everyone else sharing the meal.

Doctors more likely to misdiagnose patients who are jerks

Going to see the doctor can bring out the worst in people. Being sick and fitting an appointment into an overcrowded schedule can be stressful. So can a long sit in the colorless cube of a waiting room.

But if you’ve ever given a doctor attitude, next time you might want to think twice — or risk being misdiagnosed.

That’s the implication of two new studies published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety. Separately, the authors demonstrated that clinicians are more likely to make errors of judgment when they’re treating frustrating and difficult patients…

The researchers suspected physicians’ mental resources are so taxed from thinking about how to deal with tricky patients that their ability to process medical information becomes impaired. “If resource depletion affects simpler, everyday problems,” they wrote, “it is not surprising that these highly complex cognitive processes are impaired if a substantial proportion of mental resources is seized by the confrontation with emotional experiences triggered by patients’ troublesome behaviors…”

From the patient perspective, leaving any attitude outside the doctor’s office is probably a good idea, lest you risk being misdiagnosed.

I’ll second that emotion.

RTFA for an outline of the two studies. Actually, the suggestion is useful in many a context. I’d suggest you treat your doctor like a friendly, professional; but, overworked copper. And vice versa.

Politeness counts.

Bullet-proof fashion store opens in Eindhoven

A company selling “fashionable” bullet-proof clothing has opened its first store in the Netherlands.

Residents of Eindhoven can now stock up on the classic bullet-proof vest, but also suits, leather jackets and even ties, the Omroep Brabant website reports. The shop sells a Colombian brand of armoured clothing that is designed to look just like normal outfits, with vests thin enough to wear underneath a T-shirt. The clothes are mainly aimed at people who might feel at risk in their jobs, such as jewellers and staff at petrol stations, says company spokesman Staas de Wijs. They’re not meant to appeal to criminals, he adds.

The group that owns the shop, Panamera, says there’s been an increased interest in the products since the Paris terror attacks in January. “After Paris, 150 more people have already asked for information,” CEO Yavuz Yilmaz tells the Eindhovens Dagblad website. He won’t give away anything specific about who’s buying the items, but says the past weeks have seen “a lot of enquiries from Belgium and France as a result of current developments”. Anyone interested in making their wardrobe bullet-proof might need to save up, however. According to Omroep Brabant, the cheapest item costs 2,400 euros (= $2,700).

Eeoough! That can do as much damage as a small-calibre bullet. At least to your wallet.

Could salty potatoes build a food revolution?

A team of researchers in the Netherlands has discovered that potatoes can grow in earth fed by salty sea water.
The development could spark a revolution in the way food is produced in land previously considered unsuitable for agriculture.

Anna Holligan reports from the Dutch island of Texel.

While researchers think of islands and saltwater coasts – my first response went straight to inland geologies like New Mexico. Most underground water, aquifers, here, are of brackish water.

Nice to know we can do more than raise shrimp and crawdads.

Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport launches fleet of electric taxis

Traveling by jet airplane may not be the greenest mode of transportation, but if you’re landing at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, at least you’ll be able to get into town under pure electric power.

The Dutch airport has inaugurated a new fleet of 167 Tesla Model S taxis, giving it the largest fleet of all-electric taxis of any airport in the world. The cabs will be operated by two taxi companies – BBF Schipholtaxi and BIOS-groep – who will shuttle passengers to and from the airport with zero emissions.

“This represents a crucial step in our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and become one of the world’s three most sustainable airports,” said Schiphol Group CEO Jos Nijhuis. Last year, the airport authority brokered a deal to buy Europe’s largest fleet of electric buses to shuttle passengers to, from and between terminals as well. So whatever you may be planning to burn while in Amsterdam, at least it doesn’t have to be fossil fuels.

Just don’t smoke the seeds!

Oh – and by the way, what kind of taxis are at your local airport? In my neck of the prairie, they look like leftover Ford Crown Vics bought secondhand from the State Police.