While the United States, alleged land of the free, locks up a higher percentage of its citizens than any other nation in the world, most of them poor and minorities, Sweden is shutting down prisons because they don’t have enough people to fill them up.
Sweden has experienced such a sharp fall in the number of prison admissions in the past two years that it has decided to close down four prisons and a remand centre.
“We have seen an out-of-the-ordinary decline in the number of inmates,” said Nils Öberg, the head of Sweden’s prison and probation services. “Now we have the opportunity to close down a part of our infrastructure that we don’t need at this point of time.”
Prison numbers in Sweden, which have been falling by around 1% a year since 2004, dropped by 6% between 2011 and 2012 and are expected to do the same again both this year and next, Öberg said…Öberg said that while nobody knew for sure why prison numbers had dropped so steeply, he hoped that Sweden’s liberal prison approach, with its strong focus on rehabilitating prisoners, had played a part.
“We certainly hope that the efforts we invest in rehabilitation and preventing relapse of crime has had an impact, but we don’t think that this could explain the entire drop of 6%,” he said…
One partial explanation for the sudden drop in admissions may be that Swedish courts have given more lenient sentences for drug offences following a ruling of the country’s supreme court in 2011.
Wouldn’t that be a nice problem to have? America’s criminal justice system should be the shame of the entire nation. The mass incarceration that results mostly from the failed war on drugs is nothing less, as Michelle Alexander argues, the reestablishment of the Jim Crow laws. We have destroyed millions of lives and families with no tangible benefit.