Three strikes and you’re out. No, I don’t have a sudden interest in baseball, it’s the name of yet another test balloon in crime fight-country. This time the idea comes from JA21 and the BoerenBurgerBeweging.
Those small parties already get enough attention in the media, which is why I didn’t really feel like dedicating a column to them at first. But the harsh reality is that the abdomen has been the dominant organ in The Hague for years. Triple jump and before you know it we are stuck on the umpteenth impulse creation of Team Law & Order. It’s not too late now.
All right, the plan: three violent crimes? 40 years in prison. To substantiate his hobbyhorse, party leader Joost Eerdmans points to the US, because such laws have been in force there for some time.
Violent criminals off the streets for a long time: sounds good. At that thought, I caught myself feeling warm as well. Add to that the fact that some crimes were committed by people who were already known to the judiciary. So perhaps much suffering would have been spared if they had been in prison.
But after those warm affections fade, it’s important to look a little further. To the consequences of such a legal system, for example. Long and wide research has been done on this.
Spoiler alert: the system leads to an increase in crime. If you really want to reduce crime, you have to invest in the chance of being caught. In fact, increasing prison terms has almost never resulted in fewer crimes. And that makes it a bad bill, especially for the crime fighters from JA21.
But in addition to overshooting the mark, the US ‘baseball system’ has also resulted in mass incarceration. A large part of the population disappears under lock and key for a long time – and that in turn leads to sky-high costs for the taxpayer, because one day in prison costs 250 euros.
If you look at judicial guidelines or case law, you will also see that the bill is quite useless. In the Netherlands, judges have long considered a criminal record in their judgment. If you are hard-headed, your punishment will also increase.
And there are already enough tools: systematic perpetrators of minor offenses can be imprisoned for two years, and perpetrators who commit an act of violence under the influence of a mental disorder can also be sentenced to a TBS measure in addition to their prison sentence.
Instead of releasing test balloons in the form of a bill that does not work, judges in the Netherlands should not be further restricted in their judgment on a sentence. The previously introduced prohibition of community service also backfired, and the Allowances affair – yes, there it is again – was partly caused by judges being dictated too much by the rules of the House of Representatives.
People who make the wrong mistake three times, unceremoniously, incarcerating for 40 years is inhumane. After such a long time, rehabilitation is actually impossible: people lose their access to society forever. What if the third time is a lighter offense, for example? Or when it comes to a weaker, gifted convict who was unable to properly foresee the consequences of his act?
Customization is of fundamental importance, especially in sentencing. Before a sentence is imposed, a judge weighs up to a dozen factors to arrive at a weighted sentence. The legislator should therefore not restrict judicial freedom to such an extent that it in fact ceases to exist.
In short: this idea sounds cool, but there are only losers. Anyone with any knowledge of the business knows that. But yes, the House of Representatives has been struggling for years with a lack of knowledge in the field of criminal law and criminology.
The gut is being used to their heart’s content, but I advise our legislators to consult their other organs as well when such ideas are discussed. Their eyes and brains, for example, to read and process scientific research into these kinds of systems. Then they have no choice but to refer this disastrous plan to the Land of the Leaked Test Balloons.