Leiden Law Blog

My home is my castle

My home is my castle

People harassing their neighborhoods have been around since the dawn of mankind and society. One sign of progress may be changes in handling such problems. In earlier times, such people were subjected to the private justice of expulsion or worse, with or without due forewarning. In recent times, more administrative but not necessarily more timely and effective approaches are favored, at least in “civilized” jurisdictions, though the methods of old are actually not yet abolished worldwide.

Thus in Amsterdam, a family terrorizing neighbors and even public administration employees in and around their apartment block was offered a new home, fenced and all, in the middle of nowhere, with open views all around and fitted with all the basic modern comfort.  An offer they ultimately could not refuse, if only because authorities simply ordered them to move. Their former neighborhood was and still is exhilarated of course: “away with them in the end!”.

Everybody happy? Not really. The migrants themselves roused their voices in indignation,  protesting their “deportation” and their new housing as “unworthy even for animals”. References to historical injustices against the Roma and related people were also loudly voiced. “Here we are, expelled again and locked up away from society” was the gist of one of the complaints, as well as other less discursive utterances of discontent. One would almost think that the family would have been happier with no new home at all.

Or no home at all? Which is the fate of so many people unable to pay the rent, so often as a consequence of unhappy circumstances and events that they are unable to avoid.  Ousted they are, if needed using official superior force, left alone in their oftentimes sadly frustrating search for another dwelling place, however primitive. More than a few of them end up in public shelters, or simply on the streets.

What kind of justice and progress is this? Why honor the private justice of extortion and put local terrorists in a free bungalow, while ousting poor  people undeservedly unable to pay the rent?

Legal people like us know the right answer of course: creditors may demand removal of debtors not paying rents, while no comparable legal facilities are available against people terrorizing neighbors. Such is the law, right? At least so in The Netherlands.

So change the law and a few more things for the better, both in the interest of poor debtors and in order to more justly handle the problem of local terrorism. Troublemakers could be “offered” living space in prison buildings otherwise to be abandoned or even demolished as a consequence of ever less detainees in The Netherlands. People really unable to pay their rents may live in other and suitably refurbished prison rooms for free.

Original? Not really. A health insurance company published plans to reuse prisons for housing another troublesome part of the population: the elderly needing constant care and supervision. Bentham’s panopticon would be quite functional here too. Or was this a joke as well?

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