The decreasing number of inmates in Swedish prisons has led to a decision to close four of the facilities. Prison authorities in the Scandinavian nation have taken the unprecedented step of shutting down facilities in Kristianstad, Batshagen, Aby and Haja as well as a temporary holding prisoner holding centre.
Unconfirmed sources say two of the jails have been closed for good while the other two are being mothballed and may be turned over for use by other government agencies as a provisional measure. Swedish judicial officials say the prison population has been declining since 2004 and has gained momentum over the past two years.
The number of prisoners incarcerated in national prisons dropped by an average of one per cent a year between 2004 and 2011. The percentage increased to six in 2011 and 2012 and statistics indicate this trend is likely to continue for the current year and into 2014.
Commenting on the prison closures, Nils Oberg, the country’s prison and probation boss said he could not give a definite reason why the number of prisoners had plummeted over the past decade. He added that he liked to think it was the national focus on criminal rehabilitation and a more lenient approach.
Mr Oberg continued by saying that whatever the reason for the decline, the country had a unique opportunity to streamline its incarceration units. The UK’s Guardian newspaper reported Stockholm University criminology professor Hanns von Hofer thinks the decrease in the number of prisoners can be attributed to courts giving probation, and not prison sentences, for petty crimes and drugs offences.