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Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad reports on prison wardens warning for chaos in prison related to a new experiment that hands prisoners the keys to their own cells. The wardens fear that prisoners can continue their criminal dealings within the prison walls.

After pilot programs in the Dutch cities of Dordrecht, Heerhugowaard, and Zaandam, sixty prisoners in Arnhem will be given the key to their own cells. The experiment will give prisoners the ability to roam certain areas of the prison until 21:30. Prisoners are supposed to make sure they are on time for their daily activities and prisoner’s work.

Rob Minkes, Chairman of the Central Works Council (COR) of the Penal Services, says:

There is not enough supervision on these lads. These prisoners get to do everything on their own, without surveillance. The risk that they’ll continue their criminal affairs is now bigger, because they can communicate with each other for long periods of time without interference. It is also much simpler to trade drugs, for example.

The time prison wardens save with the ‘key experiment’ are supposed to be spent on extra conversations with the prisoners. “But we really doubt that will happen. Wardens see these experiments as vulgar cuts on expenses for prison personnel,” Minkes says.

The ‘key experiment’ fits the policy of the Ministery of Security and Justice to make prisoners more ‘self-reliant’. They are given their own key, but also a tablet to order groceries or make appointments. A spokesman of the Ministery says that:

this policy is meant to ‘activate’ prisoners and give them more responsibilities. Joint to it are conditions to guarantee security. Prisoners are not free to move without restrictions and access to the internet is limited.

According to Minkes, the effects of the ‘key experiments’ are still unclear.

This experiment spreads across the Netherlands like a wildfire, but it has still not been properly examined if there is a positive effect on the behaviour of prisoners. We owe it to the victims of crimes to first study properly if society benefits from this.

Oh well, time for some music.