Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT
Director general of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, Nils Öberg. Credit: Lars Pehrson/SvD/TT.

Corrections agency praises alternatives to prison sentences

"We need to provide credible alternatives sentences."
5:52 min

Director general of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service, Nils Öberg, believes that people who have committed less serious crimes should generally be able to serve their sentence from outside the confines of bars.

He feels that in too many cases, people who commit crimes are being sentenced to serve time in prison. According to statistics that the prison and probation service published in an opinion piece in the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, on Monday, nearly 70 percent of prison sentences are less than six months long.

But Öberg explains that the principle in Sweden is that, in general, prison terms should be reserved as a punishment for serious crimes, and they should be for a year or longer.

"We need, as a service, to provide credible alternative sentences," Öberg says in an interview with Radio Sweden.

"The fundamental idea is that a prison sentence should be the law's toughest punishment," Öberg told Swedish Radio News.

"If someone has committed a less serious crime, we have developed alternatives in Sweden, and moreover, we know they work much more effectively when it comes to preventing recidivism."

Many people who are sentenced to prison for several weeks or months are not interested, Öberg insists, in actively taking responsibility for their criminal behavior and for carrying out the individualized plan, made by the prison and probation services to prevent them from re-offending.

"People crawl into the prison for a few weeks in the winter, when it's cold out," Öberg says.

The agency is working on rolling out several new ways to handle probation, for example, surveillance via video link for youth offenders and a new conversation method.

"It's a conversation method that was developed in Canada, which has proven to have extremely good results there. We've been interested in this, and in cooperation with the Canadians, modified it for Sweden," he said.

The prison and probation service is also developing an app to give "the probation clients" clear timetables and to help them keep track of appointments and such.

"It should be easy to get it right, even when someone is convicted of a crime," he writes in DN.

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