Swedish prisons struggle with rising violence

Christer Hallqvist, chairman of the Seko union’s Department of Correctional Services, stated, 'We are losing control. The inmates more or less have taken over the prisons.'

Swedish prisons struggle with rising violence
Per Karlsson/TT via AP
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Union officials are cautioning that the situation in Swedish prisons has escalated, as overcrowding has resulted in an increase in threats and violence, suggesting that prison officers are no longer effectively managing the facilities.

Christer Hallqvist, chairman of the Seko union’s Department of Correctional Services, stated, "We are losing control. The inmates more or less have taken over the prisons."

He disclosed that employees had to separate themselves from the inmates due to a lack of resources to prevent incidents, emphasizing that the present circumstances are likely to culminate in a catastrophe, Remix News reports.

“We have crossed the line. The politicians need to calm down with their decisions so we can catch up,” he added.

The Swedish government promised to prioritize combating crime during elections and has taken direct action to address the persistent crisis of gang violence impacting the nation.

Sweden's center-right government, headed by Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, has responded to widespread gang crime by implementing expanded police authority and stricter penalties for firearm offenses, aiming to reduce record levels of gun-related killings in the Scandinavian nation.

Recently, the Swedish government unveiled increased police powers to stop and search young individuals wearing counterfeit designer clothing, marking another effort to address the persistent gang conflicts that have propelled Sweden to have the highest number of fatal shootings in Europe, second only to Albania.

However, the increased attention on tackling crime has not been matched by adequate investment in Sweden's prison system, leading to a significant issue of overcrowding. This is a concern that even prominent government officials are acknowledging.

“It is a very strained situation in Swedish penitentiary care,” said Minister of Justice Gunnar Strömmer.

“It is a result of serious development in terms of crime over many years and the expansion of the Correctional Service started far too late."

“Now, we are taking all the measures we can in order to achieve an expansion in the long term and in the short term to give the Correctional Service the conditions to handle the pressure you are experiencing here and now,” he added.

According to data from the Correctional Service, incidents of threats and violence within prisons have reached their highest levels in recent years. There were 1,333 reported cases of violence between inmates last year, compared to 1,198 in 2022 and 1,242 in 2021. Additionally, there were 2,354 instances of threats and violence directed towards prison staff last year, marking an increase from 1,962 and 1,744 cases in the two preceding years.

Alarmingly, Sweden has been grappling with a persistent struggle in addressing gang-related crime for an extended period. The correlation between gang conflicts and mass immigration has been widely recognized at the highest echelons of government.

During her tenure as Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson stated that Sweden's deteriorating multicultural society had played a role in fostering the proliferation of gang crime in the outskirts of major urban centers.

“Segregation has been allowed to go so far that we have parallel societies in Sweden. We live in the same country but in completely different realities,” she said back in 2022.

“Integration has been too poor at the same time, as we have had high immigration. Society has been too weak, resources for the police and social services have been too weak,” she added.

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