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Norway prisons face overcrowding crisis

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Norwegian jails have a backlog of criminals without cells. Jail photo: Shutterstock
14:51 CEST+02:00
Norwegian jails need urgent state money to avoid over-capacity and make urgent building repairs, said a prison chief.

Marianne Vollan, head of the Norwegian Correctional Services, believes the country's prisons face a crisis. Queues for those needing cells who are awaiting trial have grown and there are over 400 charged individuals who cannot be locked up.

Prisons, such as in Oslo and Ullersmo prison, are in such bad condition that parts of the building may have to be closed.

"The capacity of Norwegian prisons is cracked and the prisons are worn down," Vollan told Aftenposten. "But at the same time, the queues for expiation grow. The Norwegian criminal care directorate asks the government to handle the challenges.

She added: “The courts sentence more people for imprisonment than we have the capacity for.”
 
Vollan wrote in a letter sent to the Ministry of Justice and Public Security: “This is a situation we cannot allow to go on.”
 
The Norwegian Correctional Services is working on a maintenance plan with Statsbygg, the government agency for real estate management that owns the prison buildings. It is estimated urgent maintenance could cost around 3.5 and 4.5 billion kroner just to accommodate the waiting list of prisoners without cells.
 
Minister of Justice and Public Security, Anders Anundsen, told Aftenposten: “I see the situation as very dramatic. [The problem] has deteriorated over many years because it just hasn't been taken seriously enough.”
 

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Anundsen believes the task ahead is to identify the obstacles and take short-term measures in order to reduce the queue for cells.
 
“It was possible to take measures at an early stage, but this was regrettably not done,” said Anundsen.

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