Since 2006, the number of foreign inmates has doubled, giving Norway the highest proportion of foreign prisoners in Scandinavia, according to statistics from the Correctional Service of Norway Staff Academy (KRUS).
Thirty-three percent of the country’s 3,642 prisoners are foreign citizens, with many Lithuanians and Poles falling foul of the criminal justice system in recent years, newspaper Bergens Tidende reports.
Ragnar Kristoffersen, a researcher with KRUS, told the newspaper he believed much of the increase was attributable to the expansion of Europe’s open-borders Schengen area in December 2007, when eight new countries, including Poland and Lithuania, implemented the Schengen Agreement.
Attempting to explain the rise, Leif Petter Olaussen, associate professor of criminology at Oslo University, said police in Norway were aided by the country being much less densely populated than Denmark or southern Sweden.
“Beyond that, I think the proportion of foreigners in Norwegian prisons is the result of good, professional police work,” he told Bergens Tidende.
“Police have worked systematically for years in increasing the clearance rate, and they have succeeded with that in specific areas where there are obviously a lot of foreigners.”
This theory was disputed by Johan Kardell, a criminologist at Stockholm University, who rejected any suggestion that Norwegian police were doing a better job than their counterparts elsewhere in Scandinavia.
“That would surprise me. However, Sweden and Denmark have a higher proportion of foreign citizens than Norway.
“If the police catch 20 foreigners in Norway and put them in prison, this contributes to a noticeable increase in the proportion of jailed foreigners.
“If police in Sweden do the same thing it has less of an effect,” he told Bergens Tidende.