Sweden Closes Prisons Due to Lack of Inmates

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.

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  • Dunc

    We have destroyed millions of lives and families with no tangible benefit.

    Not true! Some people have become very, very rich, and various law enforcement types have huge budgets and exciting military-style toys to play with. Not to mention all those seized assets…

  • troll

    Are Swedish conservatives now railing about liberals destroying jobs and sending all those potential profits overseas to the US prison industry?

  • Subtract Hominem, a product of Nauseam

    America’s criminal justice system should be the shame of the entire nation.

    Are you sure that shouldn’t be our Gilded-Age-esque disparities in wealth and income? Maybe our extra-invasive surveillance programs? Our military’s tendency to bomb countries full of brown people on flimsy excuses? Our pitifully antiquated healthcare model?

    Now that I think about it, is there really any reason to think the entire nation should only have one shame?

  • Chiroptera

    What makes this even more amazing is that due to immigration from the developing nations (and eastern Europe), Sweden has its share of despised minorities. Its a sign of decency that they haven’t decided to warehouse them in their prisons.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Meanwhile, crime in Iceland is at a dramatic increase:

    Iceland Cop Killing First in Nation’s History

    Police in Iceland said Monday they shot dead a gunman — the first time armed police have killed someone in the nation…

  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    So they have to close prisons and put people out of jobs!?? Thanks, Obamacare!

  • http://thebronzeblog.wordpress.com/ Bronze Dog

    Sweden keeps finding ways to make me envious. I may have to rewatch the Muppets’s shows and movies so I can pick some of the language up from that chef.

  • erichoug

    The US criminal justice system is a joke. We have a massive incarceration rate and an extremely high rate of recidivism.

    Tough on crime politicians spend millions putting non-violent, low level offenders in prison for ridiculous crime. Ask yourself, what did sending Martha Stewart to prison actually accomplish? Couldn’t more people be sentenced to fines, community service and other punishments that don’t require the state to spend money on their upkeep?

  • alanb

    But, but, but… What about the Muslin crime wave I keep reading about on racist websites – the one that is causing “a complete breakdown of law and order”?

  • http://howlandbolton.com richardelguru

    That’s really amazing!!!

    I mean, have you ever seen any of those Wallander books/TV shows/Movies???

  • D. C. Sessions

    Some people have become very, very rich, and various law enforcement types have huge budgets and exciting military-style toys to play with.

    For instance Joe Arpaio’s brand-new (to us, anyway) helicopter. Not a medical evac or rescue type — one of the big ones used to deliver air cavalry to a hot LZ. You never know when Joe’s going to have to mount a full-up assault on a taco stand or someone’s night cleaning crew, but yesterday it was at a nearby mall showing the County’s taxpayers what great toys they’re getting (while chewing up large amounts of parking near the main entrance, of course.)

  • Abby Normal

    Thank goodness for Republicans, without whom we surely have followed Sweden and Iceland into socialist oppression.

  • arakasi

    But, but, but… What about the Muslin crime wave I keep reading about on racist websites – the one that is causing “a complete breakdown of law and order”?

    Don’t you see? Law and order have broken down, and the police have stopped arresting Muslims. Since they are no longer sending Muslims to prison, the prison population is dropping. Can’t you see what is right in front of you?

    /end racist psychopath rant

    Now I need a shower.

    With lye

  • laurentweppe

    We have destroyed millions of lives and families with no tangible benefit.

    That’s not true: you destroyed millions of lives and families to ensure that the most mediocre of white dudes can keep enjoying a competition for wealth rigged in their favor: for many republican politicians and voters, this is a huge benefit.

    ***

    For instance Joe Arpaio’s brand-new (to us, anyway) helicopter. Not a medical evac or rescue type — one of the big ones used to deliver air cavalry to a hot LZ

    Joe Arpaio is what happens when you allow spunkgargleweewee‘s fans to Larp without proper supervision

  • Pierce R. Butler

    They should save a block of cells just in case they somehow manage to lay hands on Julian Assange.

    Even if they plan to immediately ship him off to some US torture camp.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1159674804 robertbaden

    @Laurentweppe

    Actually both white women and white men have benefited from the removal of people of color through the drug laws.

  • abb3w

    Was it Sweeden or Finland that dumped massive resources into public education?

  • http://timgueguen.blogspot.com timgueguen

    Meanwhile the Canadian government is going in the same direction as the US has, with things like mandatory minimum sentences, even as Americans with experience in law enforcement and the prison system, including some quite conservative folks, tell them it’s a bad idea.

  • http://theophontes.deviantart.com/ theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    @ Abb3w

    Was it Sweeden or Finland that dumped massive resources into public education?

    Both. But Finland is famous for the exceptionally high standard of their teachers (MSc minimum requirement) and that they stay with the students for several years.

  • mobius

    Aha! We need to rent prisons from Sweden!

    (All right. All right. Just kidding.)

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    To be fair, they aren’t in prison because they’ve been sentenced to Sweden’s penal gravlax mines. Lost a friend their. They dug in to a good seam, got a live one, and it brought the whole tunnel down around them.

    Even IKEA’s dowel fields are more humane than that.

  • Don Quijote

    Here in Spain we shall soon be following Sweden’s example. Thanks to the ECHR we are now opening the prison doors for ETA terrorists, child rapers and muderers.

    @Modusoperandi: So funny, thanks for the laugh.

  • sigurd jorsalfar

    I was going to make a joke that if you take a look at all the IKEAs out there you might question whether Sweden is closing its prisons.

    But I see modusoperandi pretty much beat me to it. May he be condemned to serve a decade in a Swedish press-board factory!

  • Ichthyic

    Aha! We need to rent prisons from Sweden!

    you were kidding, but I’d bet money that somewhere, there is a US federal congressional panel considering doing just that.

    and I’m NOT kidding.

  • Ichthyic

    …there is a long tradition of exporting prisoners to other countries. Just ask England.

    what is to stop the US from pursuing a similar course? they could indeed rent prison space in countries like Sweden, and export some of their prison population there.

    it makes perfect sense… in a fucked up way.

  • D. C. Sessions

    what is to stop the US from pursuing a similar course? they could indeed rent prison space in countries like Sweden, and export some of their prison population there.

    I seriously doubt that the lily-livered Swedes would treat them with the brutality that Americans demand of their “correctional institutions.” That, and offshoring the American prison population would deprive American politicians of opportunities to pay off supporters support red-blooded American businesses.

  • zenlike

    #22 Don Quijote

    Here in Spain we shall soon be following Sweden’s example. Thanks to the ECHR we are now opening the prison doors for ETA terrorists, child rapers and muderers.

    You mean those people that have been sentenced to a certain amount of years in prison, and now that they have served their sentence need to be let go according to the ECHR?

    The horror! The horror!

  • Don Quijote

    @27zenlike

    The High Court on Thursday approved the release of a further 13 ETA members under the terms of the European Court of Human Rights’ (ECHR) decision to overturn the so-called Parot doctrine, a legal mechanism introduced in 2006 by which the Spanish authorities could avoid dangerous criminals and terrorists being released before they had served the 30-year maximum laid out in the 1973 criminal code.

    The Supreme Court last week ratified the ECHR’s ruling and 32 life-term prisoners have now been released, 24 of whom were members of ETA. The case came to the Strasbourg court via lawyers acting for ETA assassin Inés del Río, whose release date in 2008 came and went as the authorities applied the Parot doctrine to her sentence. Essentially, the recourse applies sentence reductions for participating in courses and workshops to the 30-year incarceration limit to each individual count the prisoner was convicted for.

    Among the ETA inmates freed was Inmaculada Noble, a member of the Madrid cell that unleashed a reign of terror on the capital in the 1980s, during the so-called “years of lead.” Del Río, who was sentenced to almost 4,000 years for her participation in 23 murders, was also a member of the cell.

    But although it was an ETA terrorist that successfully appealed to Strasbourg against continued incarceration, the ECHR’s decision has also led to the release of some of Spain’s most notorious criminals. Also freed Thursday on the order of the Burgos and Madrid provincial High Courts were Pablo Manuel García Ribado, the “entrance hall rapist,” who had been sentenced to 2,970 years, and Pedro Luis Gallego Fernández, the “elevator rapist,” who was serving 273 years. Ribado was convicted in 1996 on 153 counts including rape, kidnapping, armed robbery and sexual aggression. In Spain’s largest ever rape trial, he was found guilty of attacking 53 women across Madrid between 1990 and 1993.

    A total of 32 life-term inmates, including 24 ETA members, have now been released

    Fernández was convicted for the rape and murder of 17-year-old Leticia Lebrato in Valladolid and 19-year-old Marta Obregón in Burgos during the 1990s, as well as 18 separate counts of sexual assault. The Burgos court applied the Parot doctrine to his sentence, by which he would have been eligible for release in 2022. Following the Strasbourg ruling, his sentence was recalculated and ended in August 2011.

    In Pontevedra, the provincial court ordered the immediate release of two former policemen sentenced for the murders of local businessman David Fernández Grande, his wife Pilar Sanromán Fernández, their daughter Marta and their maid, Ana Isabel Costas Piñeiro.

    On Friday, a Santiago de Compostela court ordered the immediate release of a man convicted in 1999 of raping his two daughters. Also at liberty is Pedro Antonio Seco Martínez, who committed three murders in the early 1990’s

    ¡Vete a la mierda!

  • zenlike

    So, my main point remains standing; max sentence of 30 years, sentence done, release.

    Also, most European countries don’t go for that ‘x thousand years in prison’ crap, sounds like the Spanish system is more closely aligned with the USA ‘justice’ system.

  • Don Quijote

    See them there rapists and murderers? 1990’s plus 30 years is what? Irrespective of the ‘x thousands of years they were sentence to, they would have been released before. See that bit where Fernández who raped and murdered Leticia Lebrato and Marta Obregón would have been released in 2022.

    See that bit that says a 30 year máximum as laid out in the 1973 criminal code?

    So nice to know how much empathy you have for these people and none for the victims and their families.

  • thomasmorris

    So nice to know how much empathy you have for these people and none for the victims and their families.

    Ah yes, the good old “If you have any empathy for criminals then you have no empathy for victims” routine – because goodness knows that empathy is a zero sum “game” and that it’s impossible for a human being to feel empathy for more than one “side.”

    …But no, I’m sure you’re right – absolutely no one here has any empathy for rape and murder victims or their families.

    Derp.

  • Akira MacKenzie

    thomasmorris @ 31:

    Well, if we had empathy for BOTH criminal and victim that would mess up “good rewarded, evil punished” narrative that we’ve spent so long concocting. I mean, we need to throw a pound of red meat to the bloodthirsty mob to assure them that the cosmic scales have been balanced, so we throw prisoners in filthy holes surrounded rape, extortion, drugs, and gangs. Of course, even if they do get out, the stigma of being a “con” goes with them so they can never enjoy a productive life after paying their debt to society, but that’s just part of “justice” you can expect here in the US.

  • caseloweraz

    My first thought was to wax sarcastic, writing something about Sweden’s “recidivism gap.”

    But — nah. Kudos to Sverige.