• Sweden's news in English
 
app_header_v3
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

The Local · 10 Jan 2014, 12:01

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).
   
Story continues below…
"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
Why this Swedish restaurant is launching a dog menu
Forget ice cream, hungry Swedish dogs can now drink beefy beer. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

A Gothenburg eatery has unveiled a menu specially designed for dogs in an effort to attract new customers.

How the Swedish Church used taxes to fund lavish trips
File photo of a Swedish priest. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

A trip to Malta for 99 people was among those funded by the church coffers.

Stockholm couple crash car during rowdy romp
Never forget to put the handbrake on. Photo: YB Södermalm

A pair of hapless Stockholm lovers decide to get intimate in their car on Monday, but it was all downhill from there.

Why Sweden is now the EU's most competitive economy
Sweden has been ranked as the EU's most competitive economy. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

It's beating European giants such as Germany and the United Kingdom by miles, according to a key global ranking.

Is this the best cafe in Sweden to grab a fika?
Annas Hembageri in Mariefred. Photo: Sofia Marcetic/TT

Fill up the coffee cup and help yourself to a 'kanelbulle'. This is Sweden's best café according to food experts.

Poll shows cost of spring crisis for Swedish government
Swedish PM Stefan Löfven and Deputy PM Isabella Lövin at a cabinet reshuffle in May. Photo: Erik Nylander/TT

The survey suggests the current Swedish government would not receive the largest share of votes if an election were held in May.

Presented by Malmö Town
How Malmö is becoming the next hub for foodies
A dish at Malmö restaurant Bord13. Photo: Gustav Arnetz

When you think Malmö, do you think cheap falafel? Think again.

Fewer than 500 of 163,000 asylum seekers found jobs
Migration offices in Sweden. Photo: Marcus Ericsson/TT

Of almost 163,000 people who applied for asylum in Sweden last year, fewer than 500 landed a job, according to a new report.

Opinion
The eight ingredients that created the Swedish model
Where did the Swedish model begin? Photo: Hasse Holmberg/TT

What is the Swedish model and who invented it? Thinktank chairman Anders Källström presents the eight reasons behind Sweden's success.

Sweden lack fire without Zlatan in Slovenian stalemate
Sweden coach Erik Hamrén. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

But who are the other players who got a chance to shine ahead of the Euro 2016?

Sponsored Article
Why Stockholm attracts so many successful researchers
Gallery
Property of the week: Mariestad
Sponsored Article
Stockholm makes it easier for refugees to meet startups
National
How this Swede was turned down for a job because of her head scarf
National
Swedish police trial use of taser guns
Blog updates

27 May

Editor’s blog, May 27th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, Would you spend a day doing manual labour in high heels? That’s what Swedish…" READ »

 

17 May

What about “att”? (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! It often seems like the small words are the ones that cause the most confusion.…" READ »

 
 
 
Sponsored Article
'Only soft power can defeat radicalism'
National
'Sweden would not be able to defend Gotland'
Sponsored Article
Eat, learn, live: unforgettable holidays in France
Gallery
People-watching: May 27th-29th
National
First migrants make it from Denmark to Sweden on foot
Gallery
The best, cutest and funniest snaps from Prince Oscar's christening
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
Travel
Is this town the best place in Sweden?
Sponsored Article
'A sustainable Sweden must embrace diversity'
Gallery
People-watching: May 25th
Society
WATCH: Why Swedish handyman wore pink high heels for feminism
Sponsored Article
How to find student housing in Malmö: 5 tips
Sport
LIST: Top-ten ridiculous things Zlatan has compared himself to
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
Business & Money
Why Swedes don't want the euro
Fastighetsbyrån
Gallery
Property of the week: Vika, Falun
Sponsored Article
Food, fun, and reliable sun: Summer in Dubrovnik
National
Is this the most Swedish tattoo ever?
Sponsored Article
How Stockholm startups help new employees feel at home
Gallery
People-watching: May 20th-22nd
Sponsored Article
VIDEO: Why Malmö is the world's 6th best city for biking
National
How to really annoy a Swede abroad
Sponsored Article
'Sweden gives artists the space to follow their dreams'
National
How this war veteran is warming hearts in Sweden
Sponsored Article
Retiring abroad: ensuring your health is covered
Gallery
People-watching: May 18th
Sponsored Article
Can you afford to live in Stockholm? (Hint: yes)
National
How this Swede's viral ad totally nailed Stockholm's housing crisis
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Gallery
Property of the week: Vasastaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
Stockholm makes it easier for refugees to meet startups
Lifestyle
The best Swedish cities for dating
Gallery
People-watching: May 13th-15th
Culture
BLOG: Eurovision as it happened
3,315
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