More foreigners filling Norway’s jails

A third of all prisoners in Norway are foreign citizens, new figures show.

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.

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Dutch cons fear losing cushy cells to Norway

Dutch prisoners have gone to court to block a ground-breaking plan to rent out spaces in their jail for criminals from Norway, where the prison service faces a serious capacity shortage.

Dutch cons fear losing cushy cells to Norway
Norgerhaven Veenhuizen prison in The Netherlands. Photo: Dutch Ministry of Justice
The 18 long-term prisoners from Norgerhaven Veenhuizen prison outside Groningen aim to prevent Dutch prison authorities from shifting them to another prison to make room for the Norwegian inmates. 
“The long-termers don’t want to go to another prison. They think they have it good here,” Jaap Oosterveer, spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Justice, told VG newspaper. “This is not up to them, it’s up to the Justice Department. But they believe they are entitled to it and have gone to court.” 
Norway is planning to rent 242 prison places at Norgerhaven from the Dutch Ministry of Justice in a radical cross-border solution to the country’s capacity shortage. 
Vidar Brein-Karlsen (FRP), Undersecretary of Ministry of Justice  told VG that he expected the deal to be signed in the summer. 
“We are very satisfied, it will solve our prison queue and problems with remand capacity in Norway,” he said.  
At the time The Netherlands gave preliminary approval to the deal in September, no fewer than 1,300 people in Norway had been given jail sentences but as yet had no place in prison.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, has a surplus of prison places.