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In Dutch

The headline from the article really tells the whole story: “Dutch prisons use psychics to help prisoners contact the dead”

The subject of “prisoner’s rights” is a tremendously broad topic. Prisoner rights vary wildly from country to country, and state to state.

Understanding that there are a variety of questions concerning the rights of prisoners, both philosophical and practical, can common sense at least rule the day by which we can all agree that the introduction and implementation of pseudo-scientific practices by governments is the wrong thing to do? I hope I’m not going out on too much of a limb here, or looking to deprive someone of their “right” to be exposed to government-sanctioned woo.

From the article in The Telegraph:

Paul van Bree, a self-styled “paragnost” or clairvoyant, has been hired by the Dutch prison service to teach prisoners how to “love themselves”

He has claimed that by talking to both the prisoner and the prisoner’s dead parents he can discover key psychological insights to help the prison authorities rehabilitate criminals.

So I suppose the Dutch Justice Ministry, the overseers of prisoners in The Netherlands, is endorsing the notion of being able to talk to a dead person as a scientific fact? One can only wonder what the Dutch Science Ministry thinks of this.

More from the article:

“With my antennae I sometimes reveal more than a psychologist or a prison welfare officer,” he (van Bree) said. “My work can be compared to mental health care in widest sense of the words.”

Perhaps the Dutch Health Ministry would like to chime in on this opinion at some point?

Should the Dutch Justice Ministry be afforded the benefit of doubt? Is this, most likely, a unique case? Perhaps it is a rare example of a bad decision made by a Dutch bureaucrat?

Well, here’s another unique case of the Dutch governement failing their citizens. Back in 2008, it was reported that Dutch officials forced (yes forced) some of their unemployed masses to participate in past-life recession therapy. Supposedly, this was intended to help the unemployed get themselves  into a better mental state to increase their chances of becoming employed again.

From the article, again from The Telegraph:

The long-term Dutch unemployed are being forced into “regression therapy” in the hope that coming to terms with past lives will help them find a job.

… unco-operative welfare claimants have been told they will lose benefits unless they accept the guidance of a regression therapist to help them get in touch with their past lives.

Talk about the ends justifying the means. So who cares if legitimate and scientific tools of psychology are replaced by the the anti-scientific blunt clubs of past-life regression therapy? As long as it “helps” the unemployed find work, then that’s OK, right?


And finally, from the same article:

Klaas Boffcher, at the Dutch Ruach Boraka Centre for Complementary Therapy, uses the technique to help “people find experiences from past identities that could be negatively affecting them today”.

“It is very useful. When someone has a problem finding work it is often more about the need to find out about themselves. Reincarnation therapy can help,” he said.

“Reincarnation therapy is regression to a previous life. People’s complaints and problems have causes not just in the present but also in previous lives.”

Communication with the dead and past life regression are entirely unscientific. There is no prior plausibility to for either. There is no understood mechanism that describes their supposed effects. They are beyond falsification. They are anti-scientific.

Psychic communication with the dead is a parlor trick used by hucksters or those way too blinded by their faith.  Past life regression therapy is a technique used (or rather, misused) by psychiatrists to achieve end results that are pleasing to both the patient and the practitioner. 

But with the weight of a legitiamte government pressing these practices on an unassuming public, especially those in the direct care and welfare of the state (such as prisoners and the unemployed), it becomes a form of abuse that warrants some serious attention by critically thinking Dutch citizens.

3 comments to In Dutch

  • Jim Shaver

    From the Telegraph article:

    [Paul van Bree, the clairvoyant, said,] “I tell them that dead relatives are doing well and that they love them.”

    So it’s obvious: Dead relatives are always doing well and always love their still-living criminal kin. Otherwise, how would Bree know what to say in advance? Personally, I think in this situation, as a dead person, I might express some disappointment from beyond the grave.

  • fons

    The item about Prison Psychics likely to be fake.

    (It looks like it was just based on claims from the psychic on his website that as of yet seem to be otherwise unverified.)

    From http://www.hpdetijd.nl/2010-03-24/justitie-laat-paragnost-gevangenen-behandelen


    UPDATE, donderdag 25 maart, 12.04 uur.
    Justitie zegt u niet te kennen meneer Van Bree, hoe kan dat?
    “Oh, ja, ehm, ik praatte in de tegenwoordige tijd he? En op mijn website staat ook dat ik het nu nog steeds doe. Maar ik ben anderhalf jaar geleden voor het laatst in de gevangenis van Scheveningen geweest. Drie jaar lang heb ik die behandelingen gedaan. Het is wel echt waar hoor, ik heb de facturen hier liggen.”


    The Justice department tell us they don’t know any sir Van Bree, how is that possible?
    “Oh, yes, ehm, I was talking in the present time was I? And on my website it also says I’m still doing it. But the last time I was in the prison of Scheveningen was one and a half years ago. I have done those treatments for three years. It’s really true, I still have the invoices.”

  • fons

    About the regression therapy mentioned in the Telegraph article and the podcast.


    From this article I gather that this was not a national policy but only happened in the city of Maastricht.

    “Maastricht Social Services have put pressure on wellfare beneficiaries to follow a reincarnation therapy at the expense of the municipality. Clients who refused were told that their attitude could have consequences for their wellfare benefits”

    Further I gather from the article that not everybody was consulted and definitely not everybody agreed with this. From the article it is unclear if they ever actually put this idea to practice or if it was canceled after other people found out and brought it up in political meetings of the City Council.

    Marcus Huibers, primary clinical psychology professor at Maastricht University who works also as a psychotherapist at the mental health centre of Maastricht is baffled. “As far as I am concerned this falls into the category of witchcraft and similar. We’re talking about a completely obscure therapy that does not even deserve the name therapy.”


    From this article I gather that it was just a standalone case and never got put into further practice or policy.

    A spokesperson [1] from the municiplaity claims that it was simply one case and that the person herself had asked for the therapy. But according to Steijns [2] the woman had asked for a re-integration project and instead got forced into a re-incarnation therapy. The therapy was given to the woman as an introduction to the reintegration therapy according to the spokesperson, and that’s why it was at the expense of the municipality.

    [1] presumably somebody who was involved with this reincarnation therapy
    [2] a city councilor who got wind of the whole thing and brought it up at higher political levels

    PS: I have not found any corroboration for this last sentence from the Telegraph article or where they got it from: “In 2007, 42,500 Dutch people signed up to state funded spiritually-based “personal development programmes”.

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