According to the Dagens Nyheter broadsheet, Sweden has the lowest number of inmates in 11 years.
The government has introduced several penal reforms. The biggest one came in 2010, when penalties for violent crimes were tightened on several points.
At the time, the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården) estimated that Sweden would need 700 new prison places since an increase in inmates was seen as a logical outcome of stricter punishments.
Instead, the trend has been the opposite of what was expected.
New statistics from the Prison and Probation Service show that the number of people imprisoned in 2012 was the lowest since 2001, when Social Democrat politician Thomas Bodström was the minister for justice.
A report published by a number of legal and police authorities and submitted to the government predicts that the number of inmates will continue to decrease.
It will fall by 11 percent between 2012 and 2016, according to the report.
Ulf Jonson of the Prison and Probation Service told Dagens Nyheter that there are several reasons why fewer Swedes end up in prison.
He mentioned that in many cases prosecutors decide to drop the case or order the criminal to pay fines instead of serving a prison sentence.
He also pointed out that a suspended sentence with community service is becoming more common.
Henrik Tham, a professor in criminology at Stockholm University, added that there has also been a drop in crime rates, “even if many do not believe it”.
He also explained that Swedes have become more prone to reporting crimes, which means that, according to some measurements, crime rates appear to be on the rise.
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