Escapes from Swedish prisons cut by half

The number of prison escapes has halved in the last twelve months, according to Prison Service figures released on Friday.

In the first half of the year there were 60 escapes from the country’s open and secure prisons. That compares favourably to the same period last year, in which there were 122 escapes.

“It’s a remarkable step towards our goal of zero,” said the director of the prison service, Lars Nylén, in a press release.

Of the 60 who escaped up until the end of June, only 8 were from closed institutions. Nobody escaped from the country’s high security units at Kumla, Hall and Tidaholm.

The summer of 2004 was something of a low point for the Swedish Prison Service. Nine dangerous convicts temporarily tasted freedom as three high profile escapes in as many months eventually led to the resignation of the prison service director, Lena Häll Eriksson.

Lars Nylén was her replacement and he promised a strategy of zero tolerance.

Security at the closed institutions was raised, with an overhaul of perimeter fences, improved supervision of emergency planning, better training for staff and increased entry checks – including for staff, who were implicated in at least one of the escapes last year.

New methods for dealing with hostage situations are also being prepared, according to the prison service.

Friday’s figures also showed high occupancy rates in Swedish prisons, with 98% of available places in secure units taken up by prisoners.