Why is it so easy to get out of prison, but so hard to get in?

Welcome back, readers!

It’s a new year and time for some new thoughts on what it means to be Truly Swedish.  I visited the US during Christmas and the differences between our two cultures stood out even more while I was there.  I love seeing these differences and analyzing them.  The trick is learning what those differences are, how to adjust to them, and when to just “let it be” so you can stay sane. 🙂

I went to lunch with a bunch of colleagues yesterday and while we were walking there, we started talking about criminals and the criminal justice system in Sweden.  I don’t remember how the topic came up, but it was certainly an inspiring walk to lunch.

Ever since moving here, I’ve heard from people – both Swedes and non-Swedes – that the criminal justice system in Sweden is a “joke.”  Surely not, I thought to myself. How can a strong democracy like Sweden have a weak criminal justice system?  A society with a strong executive and legislative branch must have a strong judicial system to ensure that no one violates the principles upon which the society is founded.  And yet, time and time again, you read about these ridiculous stories where criminals are essentially given a slap on the wrist for what I consider to be a serious crime.  The punishment often does not fit the crime.  If you’re going to commit a crime, move to Sweden.

Then there are the ridiculous claims the courts make.  I just read a story about famous footballer Magnus Hedman.  Hedman was accused of purchasing sex – a crime in Sweden – because the women he was with were scantily clad and spoke English with a heavy accent.  Seriously – they were accused of being prostitutes on those two facts. Here is a link to a well-written editorial about this.

I don’t have any more stories off the top of my head – maybe my dear readers will submit some via the comments? – but I did want to raise one question – why is it so easy to get out of prison, but so hard to get in?

As we walked to lunch, it popped in my head that perhaps that the Swedish society is so fixated on the concept of equality that they are afraid to “mistreat” the criminals too much.  Just like the Swedes don’t like to stick out when they perform well, maybe it’s the same with the other side of the spectrum.  If someone was thrown in jail for 25 years to life, well, that person is essentially getting special treatment (of the negative type).

Is that the reason?  I can’t think of any other reason why you would not want to keep a murderer or a sexual predator off the street.


2 thoughts on “Why is it so easy to get out of prison, but so hard to get in?

  1. Caroline

    That Magnus Hedman thing is awful but imprisonment is not a well thought out plan. It cost a lot of money to keep people locked up. Money that could go to other stuff such as schools and hospitals. People who has been convicted for smaller crimes meet heavy criminal in prison and it is well in there start their carrier as professional criminals. I like the idea that criminals get rehabilitated into society when they are doing time. Maybe if everyone of them got a non time limited punishment and then got out when they where fit to live crimefree in our society. I think it’s crazy how it is in USA were every other black man has been to prison. That must have cost so much money, and when they get out they just commit new crime instead of being rehabilitated the first time. Prison has lost it’s function in todays time. Rehabilitation of criminals so they can take a normal job and pay taxes for school and healthcare is what I believe is the right thing

    1. calkenneth

      Caroline, great response. You’re right – the money the US spends on imprisoning people is ridiculous compared to the money they could be spending on education and health care and public services. But what is the right answer? Are the people getting locked up in Swedish jails for 6 months for murder really getting the rehabilitation treatment that they need? Do they even show remorse? Were they even guilty to begin with? I’m not familiar enough with the Swedish judicial system to know how it works, but I would love to hear your thoughts.


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