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.

READ ALSO: Violence on the rise in Sweden's nearly-full prisons

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Swedish prisoners seek higher learning

An increasing number of prisoners at Swedish correctional facilities are taking the chance to study, according to new figures from the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården).

In 2009, 1,060 prisoners successfully completed 1,775 courses, almost double the number achieved in 2007, the figures show.

The interest for adult further education has grown continuously in recent years and it is especially courses at tertiary and high-school level that have grown in popularity. Swedish for immigrants (SFI) courses have also experienced a boom in demand.

It is not just the number of grades and students which is so positive, the standards are also high, the service said.

“We maintain a very high level of quality. Quality and offering the possibility for everybody to study have always been top priorities,” said Lena Axelsson, head of education at the service, in a statement on Wednesday.

Axelsson pointed out that grades awarded by the prisons service are worth as much as those issued by other educational establishments in society.

“The prisons service operates according to the same laws and conditions as all schools in society and the schools inspection monitors our operations,” she said.

The service also pointed out in its statement that grades issued by the prisons service do not state where they have been issued.

The Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården) employs 125 teachers at its facilities across the country.