New effort to expel foreign convicts

Justice Minister Knut Storberget is making another effort to send foreigners convicted of crimes in Norway back to their home countries, to serve their prison terms in local jails. The number of foreign convicts in Norwegian prisons has risen rapidly in recent years, putting even more pressure on prison capacity.

Around 30 percent of convicts serving prison terms are now citizens of countries other than Norway. Poland leads the list, followed by Lithuania, Nigeria, Iraq and Romania, reports Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

Storberget, recently ranked as the government’s most popular minister, went on national radio Tuesday morning to claim that his ministry had made progress in expelling foreign convicts. “The numbers of those sent out of the country are rising,” Storberget said. “Last year we expelled 41, and that saved us a lot.”

But far more repatriations are needed, if only to relieve prison space for Norwegian convicts. Around 1,200 foreign convicts remain in Norway, and Storberget thinks that’s too many.

He said the justice ministry, in charge of Norway’s police and prison system in addition to the courts, keeps trying to strike agreements with the governments of countries involved so they can more easily return convicts for what’s called soning in Norway, or serving one’s prison term. Norway now has agreements with Romania, Lithuania and Latvia that were due to be approved in Parliament on Tuesday, to enable repatriation even when the convict objects.

Many foreign convicts seek to remain in Norway, where prison conditions are generally far better that in other countries. Norway’s criminal justice system stresses rehabilitation over punishment, offering education and job training in an effort to ease prisoners back into society. In the case of foreign prisoners, though, the expensive efforts can be wasted because they’d be sent home anyway.

Norwegian prison conditions and terms have once again been the topic of local debate, after media reports that Veronica Orderud, serving a lengthy prison term following her conviction in the triple murder at the Orderud farm more than a decade ago, was allowed to go to the cinema, cafés, on walks in the woods and other outings at taxpayer expense. One former politician for Storberget’s Labour Party called the conditions of her prison term “luxurious” and unfair, especially to retirees whose pensions don’t allow such outings.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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