Swedish criminals spending longer behind bars

Swedish criminals are facing stricter sentences than they did 10 years ago, according to recent statistics from Sweden’s Prison and Probation Service.

During the past decade, the average prison sentence has gone up 60 percent. Last year the average was 14 months for the 4,700 law breakers convicted, an increase from from 10 years ago where 4,000 prisoners faced on average nine months behind bars, according to Dagens Nyheter.

“Violent crimes and organized crime has become harder,” said Hans Klette, a former professor of criminal law at Lund’s University.

Last year some 6,500 criminals were working off their sentences where as in 1996, only 3,500 were serving time.

“A longer punishment doesn’t always lead to fewer relapses,” Klette said. “If there was some time of treatment, then there could be cause for it (longer prison sentences).”

One category of crimes facing tougher punishment today is drug crimes and sexual crimes. During the past year, several cases in Sweden have received tougher sentences with longer punishments.

“It is serious attacks that demand long treatments, which can actually reduce the risk for relapse. But just a prison sentence is not enough,” Klatte said.

When asked if crimes are worse or if sentencing is just tougher, criminologist Eckart Kühlhorn said crimes have become much worse.

“We can absolutely see that more are abused today than before. Alcohol consumption is up,” he said, according to Dagens Nyheter.

Criminologist Mikael Rying, with Stockholm County’s crime police, said sentencing is the root of the increased figures.

“Absolutely, we can see that murder and manslaughter has not increased in 20 years, but has stayed around 100-120 deaths each year,” he said.

During the 70s, two of three murders were sent to the hospital care, whereas now only one in three are sent to psychiatric care and not prison.

“I can categorically say that judges do not judge harder, but we definitely feel that crimes have become worse,” said appeals court judge Staffan Levén. “The violence has become worse and weapons are used more often.”