To alleviate the ballooning problem of overcrowded prisons, Sweden plans to send more foreign nationals to their respective home countries to serve their sentences there.
The government has proposed a legislative change to facilitate the transfer of convicts to other countries.
“The prisons are overcrowded, so it is reasonable that more of those who are not Swedish citizens actually serve their prison sentences in their home countries”, Interior Minister Mikael Damberg of the ruling Social Democrat party told national broadcaster SVT.
He stressed the urgency for the Prison and Probation Service and the courts to speed up the process. According to the proposed changes, in cases where the convicted person consented to be transferred to another country, it should no longer be possible to appeal the decision.
The proposed change is rooted, among other things, in the EU's rules on the enforcement of prison sentences that came into force in 2015.
“We see that today there are about 400 EU citizens from countries outside the Nordic countries in Swedish prisons. Many of them could have been transferred to their home countries and serve their sentences there”, Mikael Damberg said.
According to Damberg, the situation with concluded agreements that allow for prisoner transfer is gradually improving.
“We have historically had problems with some countries, but for instance Romania has improved the conditions in its prisons so that it is now fully possible to transfer there. We also have a running collaboration with Poland and Lithuania so that they will also accept shorter prison terms, so we see that it is going in the right direction”, Mikael Damberg said.
The situation in Swedish prisons has previously been described as serious, with hundreds of inmates sharing rooms and bunk beds and further hundreds of convicts standing in line to serve their sentences.
“This is a serious situation, and there has been an increased influx of clients over the last two years. For a long time we had a declining client inflow, but now we have a new situation where we need to increase our capacity”, Lennart Palmgren of the Prison and Probation Service told Swedish Radio.
According to the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, a total 4,393 of inmates were registered in the country's jails as of 1 October 2018. Some 1,319 or about 30 percent of them lacked Swedish citizenship.