Swedish prisons overcrowded – more people forced to serve time in custody

Published 4 June 2023
- By Editorial Staff
10 298 sentenced persons have begun serving a prison sentence in custody in 2022.

According to a new report from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (BRÅ), more and more people are being forced to serve their prison sentences in remand prisons. The reason is simply that there is a lack of space in Sweden’s institutions.

In 2022, an average of 2 680 people were registered in remand prisons in Sweden. Of these, 345 were sentenced persons serving their prison sentences in custody, known as ‘enforcement cases’. Compared to the previous year, this represents an increase of 110%, according to a new report from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, BRÅ.

The reason for the sharp increase in enforcement cases is that Sweden’s prisons are full, which means that those who should have served their sentences in prison cannot always be accommodated.

The last year’s increase in enforcement cases in remand prisons is affected by a shortage of places in the institutions, which means that it has taken longer to find places in institutions with the right security class for the clients waiting in the remand prisons. This means that those who should actually be in prison instead have to serve all or part of their sentence in remand prisons, says Charlotta Lindström, statistician at BRÅ.

Since 2017, the total time spent in prison has increased by 63 percent and the number of prison sentences by 23 percent. The number of people on remand has also increased, as the figure in 2017 was 1781.

‘The usual median time in custody is eleven days, but generally you should not spend more than seven days in a row,’ explains Lindström, who also points out that there are problems with allowing convicted criminals to serve their prison sentences in custody.

The problem is that in remand prison you don’t have access to the same resources, you spend longer periods in your cell, and there exist various restrictions. There are rules that state that you should not spend more than seven days waiting for a placement in an institution, in exceptional cases thirty days. Now, in some cases, it can be more than thirty days for some people. The law is being broken to some extent, she told Bonnier-owned newspaper DN.

The report also shows that in 2022, there were 10,298 enforcement cases in Sweden, seven percent of whom were women and 93 percent men. Compared to 2021, this was an increase of 9 percent. Among these, 71 percent had Swedish citizenship while 29 percent lacked it. The proportion of people without Swedish citizenship was higher among men than among women.

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