Swedish prison numbers at 15-year high

The Swedish prison population has reached record levels, according to a budget proposition presented to the government by the Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården).

Swedish prison numbers at 15-year high

“Over the past 15 years the total number of clients within the prison and probation service has never been as high as it is now,” the Swedish Prison and Probation Service writes in its budget forecast dated July 30th.

The number of clients managed by the service increased by 751 from 2008 to a current 20,920. The increase has primarily occurred within non-custodial treatment services.

The number of prisoners in custodial services amounted to 6,580 in the first half of 2009, an increase of one percent on 2008.

Prisoners being treated within non-custodial services increased by 4.8 percent on 2008 to 14,340 in the first half of 2009.

The Prison and Probation Service writes that on average 95 percent of prison places have been occupied over the first half of 2009 which is five percent above the desired limit.

The service however expects pressure on correctional facilities to ease off over the full year with an average of 20,880 clients.

The service writes that a government review of the penal system, to be completed in 2012, makes future projections somewhat uncertain.

The review will consider, among other things, whether the application of alternatives to custodial sentences should be extended in order to ease pressure on prisons.

The service confirms plans to extend the number of places available within correctional facilities by 1,469 during the period 2009-2012.

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Swedish authorities in crisis meeting over crowded custodial facilities

Facilities used for detention and custody in Sweden are full to capacity and authorities have engaged in crisis talks over the situation.

Swedish authorities in crisis meeting over crowded custodial facilities
File photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The pressure on the detention centres, known in Swedish as häkten, are partly caused by overcrowding at prisons, according to a report by Radio Sweden’s Ekot programme.

Currently, 130 people who should be serving punishments in prisons are instead accommodated at the primary detention facilities due to lack of space, according to the report.

Directors of seven different authorities, including the police, prison service and prosecution authorities, met in Stockholm on Friday to discuss an emergency solution to the issue.

“The situation is very serious. We now have overcrowded detention at a level which means that 23 out of 32 facilities in the country have over 100 percent occupancy, and that is completely unacceptable,” Swedish Prison and Probation Service general director Nils Öberg told the radio station.

In an effort to manage the problem, several task groups have been set up to look into options such as accommodating detainees in double rooms. But the total capacity of the correctional service must be increased in the long term, according to Öberg.

“The situation we have today is at risk of worsening in the coming months. We cannot have a situation whereby facilities are occupied at 100 percent or more. Me must have a maximum occupation of 90 percent,” he said.

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