Life sentences increase as prisoner numbers fall

While the number of prisoners in Sweden's correctional institutions was down in 2005, the amount of convicts serving life sentences is up, according to prison service statistics for last year.

Some 2,068 criminals began serving their time in prison for drugs-related offences in 2005 compared to 1,884 in 2004. About 1,798 entered the system because of theft in 2005, down from 2,040 the year before.

The change continues a trend that began in 1975.

But in the last 30 years, the number of drug crimes committed each year in Sweden has tripled, while the number of other crimes has decreased.

The total number of life sentences continued to increase. Some 142 prisoners were serving indefinite sentences in 2005, double the amount in 1997.

“It’s not because more people are being convicted now, but because they’re staying in prison longer,” said Dennis Karlsson, spokesman within the prison and probation service.

He said the average life sentence, according to the justice department, is 18 to 24 years, compared to around 12 to 14 years previously.

Karlsson said during 2005 there were 10,656 people in jail, 687 fewer than in 2004. He said 93.3 percent of those in taken in are men.