Staff “behind Hall Prison escapes”

Five of the seventeen people suspected of involvement in the escape of four inmates from Hall prison in July are prison officers.

A police investigation is still ongoing but on Wednesday the board of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service presented the findings of their own inquiry.

“It shows that it was staff who were the biggest single difference in the escape,” said the director of criminal care, Inga Mellgren.

Late on 28th July two female prison officers went to investigate an alarm call but were met by Tony Olsson, serving a life sentence for killing two policemen in 1999. He was carrying a pistol and forced the guards to hand over their keys. Then he released three other men from the cells.

They locked one of the guards in a cell and took the other one with them to a visiting room, threatening to kill her unless she let them out. Outside the prison a car was waiting for them with a driver.

After a frantic couple of days – and a massive manhunt – all four prisoners were caught and returned to jail. But police quickly realised that this kind of escape would have been impossible without inside help.

According to Dagens Nyheter, the precise roles of the prison officers under suspicion is being kept under wraps until the expected charges are brought against them, probably in December. But they are thought to have played a part in smuggling in two mobile phones and the pistol.

“It’s not possible that they were thrown in,” said Inga Mellgren. “The section is closed off.”

Security at Hall prison has been tightened since the escape and all visitors and staff must now walk through a metal detector. But Lars Nylén, the general director of the Prison and Probation Service, told Expressen that recruitment of prison officers needed to improve.

“We should also be developing the skills of staff and we can clearly do better in that respect,” he said.

“The Prison Service wants to find a way to stop people working for too long in one department – it’s important that the people who work on the tough departments rotate after a while.”

While the prison officers’ attempt to reduce the country’s prison population may have failed, the Prison and Probation Service appears to have found another method – shipping them back to their home countries.

This year, reported Wednesday’s Sydsvenska Dagbladet, 35 foreign prisoners have been sent “against their will to prisons in Lithuania, Poland and other countries” – twice the total in 2003.

For many years the Nordic countries have had an agreement to send prisoners back home to serve their sentences. But Sweden recently extended the deal to more countries, including the Baltics, Poland and Hungary.

According to Swedish Radio, Lithuania tops the league of ‘send-backs’ with 19 since 2002, while the runner-up is Estonia, with nine.

Sydsvenskan pointed out that a single prisoner in a closed jail costs Swedish taxpayers a couple of thousand crowns a day – so the policy makes economic sense.

“Our instructions are to try to send home all the prisoners from these countries,” said Ulf Jonson, a director at the Prison and Probation Service.

Next on the list is a Polish citizen sentenced to ten years in prison for drug smuggling. He is confined to a wheelchair and because of his condition has been locked in an ordinary care centre. So far his time in ‘prison’ has cost Sweden 3.5 million crowns.

“We’ve had big practical problems with him,” admitted Ulf Jonson.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Expressen, Sydsvenskan, Sveriges Radio