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article imageSweden plans to close prisons

By Dawn Denmar     Dec 2, 2013 in Crime
The head of Sweden's prison and probation services announced in November that four of the country's prisons are to close due to a decline in prisoner numbers. There's been a 6 percent drop in numbers of Swedish prisoners but crime rates have not fallen.
On the face of it, this move to close four Swedish prisons seems another step forward for this progressive country.
The United States Bureau of Diplomatic Security asserts Sweden has low crime rates, with incidents of robberies, burglaries, theft and homicide remaining static or decreasing slightly over the past couple of years. Since 2004 the number of criminals jailed for theft, violent crime and drug offences has fallen by more than one-third. Sweden does have the highest rape rates in Europe, though this can be explained. Apparently, if a person makes allegations of rape from a partner the Swedish police record each alleged instance as a separate rape count. Therefore, anyone claiming regular non-consensual sexual intercourse may rack up 300 or so cases of rape in Sweden's official crime figures.
There are currently around 4,500 prisoners in Swedish prisons and the prison service is considered progressive and liberal. From the point of view of jail terms, even the most serious offence rarely carries a sentence longer than 10 years. Prisoners who have been given life sentences can apply to have their sentence reduced after 10 years and sentences are often reduced to between 18 and 25 years. Electronic tagging is a popular measure in Sweden and community-based sentencing measures are used often. With low re-offending rates of between 30 percent and 40 percent within a three-year period, it does seem the Swedish prison service operates a successful service.
The Swedes say much of their success is due to the efforts they make to rehabilitate criminals.
Kenneth Gustafsson, governor of Sweden's most secure prison, Kumla, said: "This year and next year the priority of our work will be with young offenders and men with convictions of violent behaviour. For many years we have been running programmes to help those addicted to drugs. Now we are also developing programmes to address behaviours such as aggression and violence. These are the important things for our society when these people are released."
The video below records a visit to one of Sweden's secure prisons.
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