Roughly 27 percent of prisoners in Denmark's jails are non-Danish citizens and only 30 percent of those sentenced to deportation actually leave the country each year, Politiko reported on Thursday.
The government is prepared to tackle this problem by breaking the tradition of allowing foreign criminals to serve their sentences in Denmark unless they can be sent to their home country.
This will be done by outsourcing prison sentences to countries such as Poland, Romania or Lithuania or through paying private companies operating in such countries.
“I think it is advantageous for the Danish prison system to use more of its energy on people who are worth making the effort for,” Justice Minister Søren Pind told Politiko.
“We can send a message to burglar gangs and others, telling them that the days of a free stay in Danish prisons after a season of illegal money making are over,” Pind continued.
Anti-burglary police unit Task Force Indbrud has previously stated that Denmark has become such an attractive prospect for burglars that a trend of ‘burglary tourism’ has broken out, bringing in particular Romanian burglars to Denmark’s wealthy villa neighbourhoods.
According to the Ministry of Justice, around 200 prisoners in Denmark have been sentenced to deportation, but the process of reaching an agreement with the country of origin is time consuming.
The current rules for deportation depend upon both the severity of crime and the nature of the convicted person’s ties to Denmark, such as whether or not that person has a permanent address in the country.
While any changes in the law would not affect Danish prisoners, Pind said that he hoped the rules could be extended to all non-Danish convicts.
“There are a number options that we have never tried in Denmark before,” Pind told Politiko.
“What I want is a prison that operates on a different premise to prisons in Denmark but without me being responsible for complying with the European Human Rights Convention. That must be the task of the operator,” he continued.
“For those who have to return to Danish society, it can be important to rehabilitate, but as far as the others are concerned I have no scruples, and will go as far as I possibly can,” said Pind.
Pind’s proposal is likely to be approved by parliament with fellow ‘blue bloc’ parties the Danish People’s Party, the Conservatives and Liberal Alliance already having voiced their support. Opposition party the Social Democrats has not ruled out its support.
But Denmark’s Prison Authority (Fængselsforbundet) remains critical of the plan and its intentions, according to Politiko.
“It’s an absurd way of thinking to believe that worse conditions for serving custodial sentences will make criminality disappear, and that these types of people will not come back,” Kim Østerbye of the Prison Authority told Politiko.
“There is no evidence that prison conditions themselves affect the overall crime situation – otherwise there would be countries where crime did not exist,” continued Østerbye.
Østerbye also pointed out that Danish prisons are not overcrowded, the reason given for a similar scheme for outsourcing in Norway, which has sent prisoners to the Netherlands.
The National Association of Defence Lawyers (Landsforeningen af Forsvarsadvokater) also stated its scepticism of the plan.
“I see neither the need nor justification for it,” lawyer Kristian Mølgaard told Politiko.
“It seems to be pure symbolism politics to me. I can’t see the symbolic value of making someone who is going to be sent to Romania serve their sentence in Poland. If that helps the sense of justice in Denmark, then it’s at the cost of a sense of justice in Poland. I also feel that it’s selling out on having control over securing the person in question is imprisoned under acceptable conditions,” Mølgaard continued.
Should the proposal be accepted by parliament, negotiations will begin in the autumn to implement the plan with the Danish Prisoner Service (Kriminalforsorgen), foreign authorities and private contractors.