Justice Minister Anders Anundsen announced on Monday evening that he had sent a proposal to his Swedish counterpart Beatrice Ask, and hoped that Norwegian inmates would start serving time in Sweden as early as next year.
"We cannot live with the situation we have in this country now," he told state broadcaster NRK. "We have long prison queues, and that is why we have contacted the Swedes to see if it is possible to lease prison places there."
Sweden closed down prisons this year in the towns of Åby, Håga, Båtshagen, and Kristianstad, after seeing a fall in the number of people being given jail sentences.
"We have seen an out-of-the-ordinary decline in the number of inmates," Nils Öberg, the head of Sweden's prison and probation services, told The Local. "Now we have the opportunity to close down a part of our infrastructure that we don't need at this point in time."
Anundsen described his proposal as "a win-win situation for both us and the Swedes."
"They have seats available, and we have capacity problems," he said.
Norway's police now have a list of 1,200 people for whom prison places are required, Anundsen revealed, claiming that this was becoming a serious law and order issue.
"Remand prison places are not available and people who should have been imprisoned are being freed because of capacity issues."
Last month Deputy Justice Minister Vidar Karlsen, who, like Anundsen is from the right-wing Progress Party, said that he was considering a proposal to jail foreign criminals in disused military bases in Norway's Arctic north.
"We will of course consider the proposal to use the former military camps as prisons," he said after Magnar Pedersen, head of the police in Vestfold county, came up with the proposal.
Belgium in 2010 became the first European country to send its criminals to prisons abroad, when it sent 500 inmates to a prison rented from The Netherlands for some €30 million euros a year.
"Through eventual negotiations with Sweden, it would be natural to look at the Belgian-Dutch model and their experience with that solution," Anundsen told NRK.
Per Claréus, spokesman for Beatrice Ask, said on Monday that the justice ministry wasn't ready to comment on the request from Norway as the exact contents of the letter from Anundsen remained unclear.
"We're not going to say anything today. As far as I know, this letter hasn't arrived at the justice ministry today," he told the TT news agency late on Monday.