• Sweden's news in English
 
Swedish jails empty despite crime rise
Open house day at Swedish prison. File photo: Claes Sandén/Kristianstad kommun/Flickr

Swedish jails empty despite crime rise

Published: 10 Jan 2014 10:57 GMT+01:00
Updated: 10 Jan 2014 12:01 GMT+01:00

Swedish judge Carin Westerlund says she seldom hesitates to take the opportunity of keeping a convict out of prison.
   
"I can choose to hand down a probation or community service sentence rather than condemn someone to prison," Westerlund, a judge in Uppsala district, told AFP. She added that in the cases where alternative sentences were not available, she had seen no change in the severity of sentencing.
 
"Burglaries, narcotics or sexual violence, I'd say the sentences haven't changed in the last ten years," Westerlund said.
   
As Swedish judges opt for electronic tagging and other sentences that keep inmate numbers down, Sweden is closing prisons. Anyone sentenced to less than six months in jail has the right, since 2005, to request an electronic bracelet rather than incarceration. Many judges have embraced the policy.
   
Along with its Nordic neighbours, Sweden has one of the world's lowest incarceration rates, at 0.5 per 1,000. It is half the level of France and ten times less than the United States. The country's prison population fell by nearly 1,000 inmates over the last decade to about 4,300, reveal figures from the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården).
   
Greater use of electronic bracelets and probation may not explain alone the rapid fall in the number of prisoners, correctional officers said.
   
"It's still too early to give definitive answers," said Nils Öberg, head of the Prison and Probation Service.
  
A recent study from Stockholm University's criminology department indicated that non-custodial sentences have played a major role in slashing prisoner numbers. In 2011, the Supreme Court (Högsta domstolen) issued new criteria for drug trafficking convictions, which resulted in less severe sentencing for more minor crimes.
 
   
 Swedish courts are also more likely to grant parole after two-thirds of a sentence has been served. Another factor may be large state investments in rehabilitation and recidivism prevention programmes.
   
A 38-year-old inmate at Norrtälje prison, who declined to give his name, said that prisoners in Sweden have access to education and "a chance to start over."
   
"It's the first time I serve a sentence and I hope it'll be the last." 
 
 
Statistics from the National Crime Prevention Council (Brottsförebyggande rådet - Brå) revealed that reported crimes are on the rise, from 1.2 million in 2004 to 1.4 million in 2012. The increase included a significant rise in reported drug crimes, fraud and assault.
 
The statisticians noted in their half-year review published at the end of 2013, howevver, that reported crime rates should not be interpreted as reflecting the number of  actual crimes committed. The public's willingness to report crime and the intensity of certain police work, for example, could influence the numbers, Brå argued.
 
"The number of reported crimes in certain criminal areas, such as narcotics and traffic offences, is in large part due to the police's and other authorities' efforts to investigate (them)."
 
Sweden's current conservative government has attempted to bring in tougher sentencing for serious crimes, in particular murder, but their proposals have run up against opposition from a judiciary that believes more in rehabilitation than punishment. That more lenient approach is supported by many Swedes but it has its critics, not least from the National Victim Support Association (Brottsofferjouren - Boj).
   
"Life sentences for murder cases are not that frequent anymore," said Sven-Erik Alhem who heads the association. "In my opinion, it's obvious that any murder case should be punished by life sentences... It's very important to say that the families of those who have been killed suffer a lot. They don't think it's right to have a short period of time in prison."
   
In 2013, Sweden closed four prisons and one rehabilitation centre, out of a total of 82 penal institutions. Correctional services head Öberg said the facilities were "quite old" and that a big investment would have been needed to keep them operational. The remaining institutions are generally under-occupied.    
 
"If short sentences are served in probation, that empties the prisons," said Anders Ekström, inspector of Norrtälje prison, which has 160 inmates and a capacity for 200.
   
Öberg does not think fewer criminals in the country's prisons will lead to more violence or put him out of work.
   
"It's a good opportunity to work on preventing re-offending and finding a more effective way to strengthen public order and security in the long-run." 
 
Ariane Picard
AFP/TL/at

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Nepal earthquake
Swedes join earthquake rescue efforts in Nepal
Residents rescue items from the debris of a house damaged in Saturday's earthquake in Nepal. Photo: AP Photo/Bernat Armangue

Swedes join earthquake rescue efforts in Nepal

An expert team from Sweden is set to travel to Nepal on Monday to help with a search and rescue operation following a devastating earthquake which is believed to have claimed 3,200 lives so far. But the death toll continues to rise – as Swedes caught up in the disaster remain stranded in the mountain region. READ  

Rush-hour chaos for Swedish rail commuters
It's not the first time train delays cause headaches for Swedish commuters. Photo: Tomas Oneborg/SvD/TT

Rush-hour chaos for Swedish rail commuters

A faulty railway switch in Stockholm was expected to cause rush-hour headaches for travellers across Sweden on Monday morning after several trains were cancelled and others diverted. READ  

Sweden enjoys tourism boom
Photo: Måns Fornander/imagebank.sweden.se

Sweden enjoys tourism boom

Tourism in Sweden is increasing rapidly with foreign tourists expected to spend a total of 115 billion kronor (13.3 billion) this year, according to an industry forecast. READ  

Swedish hostages freed in Syria
Sweden's Foreign Minister Margot Wallström. Photo: TT

Swedish hostages freed in Syria

Two Swedish men held hostage in Syria have been released with the help of Jordanian and Palestinian authorities, Sweden's foreign ministry said Saturday. READ  

Swedes risk double tax over pension change
The 'orange envelope' containing annual pension statements. Photo: TT

Swedes risk double tax over pension change

Many Swedes risk paying double tax on their savings following changes to private pensions rules, experts warn. READ  

Christian Democrats elect first female leader
Photo: TT

Christian Democrats elect first female leader

Sweden’s Christian Democrats on Saturday unanimously elected Ebba Busch Thor as the party’s leader, replacing Göran Hägglund. At 28, she’s the youngest person to ever lead a Swedish party in parliament. READ  

Municipal interpreters spoke wrong language
Most migrants from Romania speak Romanian, not Romany. Photo: TT

Municipal interpreters spoke wrong language

The municipality of Helsingborg hired interpreters to communicate with migrants from Romania. Problem was, the interpreters spoke a language the Romanians didn’t know at all. READ  

Swede wins world boxing title
Badou, left, connects with Anthony Dirrell during the fight in Chicago. Photo: AFP

Swede wins world boxing title

Sweden's Badou Jack claimed the World Boxing Council's super middleweight title as he outpointed previously unbeaten Anthony Dirrell in Chicago on Friday night. READ  

Swedish police officers praised by New Yorkers
The Swedish police heroes meet with NYPD heads. Photo: New York Police Department/TT

Swedish police officers praised by New Yorkers

A video has emerged of Swedish off-duty police officers breaking up a violent fight on the New York subway. READ  

Eighth happiest: why are the Swedes not pleased?
Swedes are the eighth happiest people in the world. Photo: Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se

Eighth happiest: why are the Swedes not pleased?

Sweden is the eighth happiest country in the world, according to the UN. But the result has not gone down well in the Nordic country. The Local caught up with an expert to find out why. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
National
What's on in Sweden: April 23rd - 30th
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
How the Stockholm School of Economics changes expat lives
Features
My bizarre Swedish habits that foreigners just don't understand
National
Brits in Sweden face NHS black hole
Swedish Hasbeens
Sponsored Article
Is the world wrong to connect Sweden with sex?
Blog updates

24 April

Editor’s blog, April 24th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, Spring has well and truly arrived, as evidenced by the start of strawberry season. The..." READ »

 

15 April

Gång, timme, tid & dags (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! In this article I will talk about “gång”, “timmar”, “dags” and “tid”, because they all translate..." READ »

 
 
 
Business & Money
The Swedish regions where you're least likely to stay jobless
Gallery
People-watching: April 22nd
Sport
Sweden's Eriksson joins row over foreign England player quotas
National
MEP says ignoring migrant crisis like 'Sweden's Holocaust appeasement'
Gallery
IN PICTURES: The Swedish mining town that's being moved
National
How much would you pay for first Swedish strawberries of 2015?
Gallery
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Want to study in Sweden? Read why Stockholm is the best choice
Photo: TT
National
Get set for a sunny week in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Does far-north Sweden have to punch above its weight?
National
Refugees in Sweden fear for families lost at sea
National
Syria claims ‘most dangerous’ Isis leaders are Scandinavian
Gallery
People-watching: April 18th
National
Swedish researchers pore over link between coffee and cancer
Features
What you can buy in Sweden for the price of a London shed
National
What's on in Sweden this week
National
Swedes launch first donut into space
Politics
Is Sweden returning to 1990s social democratic welfare politics?
National
Mamma Mia! Abba entertainment venue set to open in Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching: April 15th
National
Why Sweden is top place in the world for expats to raise children
National
Swedish 'submarine' was civilian boat
National
Why has a US town got pulled into a Swedish spelling row?
Gallery
Property of the week: Hovås, Gothenburg
National
What does Zlatan think of his ban?
National
Swedish teenagers help rebuild Breivik massacre island
National
Would you live in a steel box?
National
How an act of kindness by one Syrian immigrant went viral
Gallery
People-watching: April 8th
National
Swedish bids for Billboard fame
National
Swedish monkeys denied Saudi visas
National
Sunny spring weather predicted
Sponsored Article
'Impossible' to run Skanska without Bromma Airport
National
Half of Swedes want begging ban
Gallery
Property of the week: Gotland
National
Why are expats less likely to settle down with Swedes?
Sport
What does Sweden think of Zlatan's recent outburst?
Society
Get to grips with Sweden's most bizarre Easter traditions
Gallery
People-watching: April 1st
National
The Local's best April Fools' gags
National
US spy agency to feature in new 'Stieg Larsson' book sequel
National
Beaver bite at Swedish bus stop
Gallery
Property of the week: Åreda
Sponsored Article
'Sweden must embrace openness and diversity'
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

3,310
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
psdmedia.se