A middle-aged inmate was killed in the kitchen facilities of Riihimäki Prison earlier this year.Prisoners commit offences and violate the rules of their incarceration more often than before.

Between 2007 and 2013, the number of infractions committed by prisoners has increased by over 30 per cent – and by as much as over 100 per cent in open prisons.

The primary reason for the increase is the fact that prisoners are increasingly placed in open correctional facilities where it is easier for them to obtain intoxicants and commit other infractions, gauges the Criminal Sanctions Agency. “The bar has been lowered so that higher-risk prisoners can be placed increasingly in open facilities,” says Ari Juuti, a senior inspector at the Criminal Sanctions Agency.

Timo Salomäki, an assistant director at Suomenlinna Prison, similarly estimates that inmates in open facilities today are in worse condition than before. “There are lots of drug users,” he describes.

Although the majority of cases continue to occur in closed prisons, infractions are becoming more commonplace also in open prisons, surging by over 100 per cent in 2007–2013 despite the fact that the number of prisoners only grew by 10 per cent.

Last year, the most common infraction was the use or possession of narcotics. “The substance abuse of prisoners is the main problem. It is easier to control in a closed prison than in an open facility,” says Juuti.

Prisoners also commit a number of other infractions, such as return late to the prison, refuse to comply with the orders of guards, use performance-enhancing substances and intimidate and use violence. Meanwhile, fewer prisoners are transferred back to a closed facility due to their transgressions.

“That's not cost-effective for prisons or for the prisoners themselves,” says Juuti.

If the infraction committed by a prisoner may result in further prosecution, the prison files a criminal complaint with the police instead of addressing the incident internally. In recent years, the number of such criminal complaints has varied between 140 and 280.

Regardless of the rise in the infractions of prisoners, the objective of the Criminal Sanctions Agency is to place more prisoners in open facilities or under supervised probation also in the future in order to reduce costs as well as to encourage the re-integration of convicts into the society.

Lasse Kerkelä – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva