Monday, June 22, 2009

Regular Furloughs during Life in Prison – Murder Ensues

A man who was convicted for murder and sentenced to life in prison was recently hanging out on Kungsholmen. You may find it strange that a man supposedly imprisoned for life was hanging out on the very island which I ran around twice in a row to complete a solid half marathon. Let me remind you though, this is Sweden.

The Swedish justice system has a very interesting take on life in prison. And crime in general. They believe that everyone can be saved. That there are no bad people. That we will all one day sit around the camp fire and sing Kumbaya and hold hands.

Then a man who is serving life in prison is hanging out on his regular furlough and murders someone. Furlough is the fancy word that The Local used to report this story. An interesting little tidbit, look for synonyms of furlough in Microsoft Word and you’ll see that vacation pops up. Awesome. Because murderers definitely need vacations. Hell, the average Swedish worker gets about five weeks of it. The average murderer should get a piece of that pie too.

I do not like the Swedish justice system. Things like this happen just enough to make me think twice about the effectiveness. Like the guy downloading over two million pictures of child pornography for nearly twenty years who received only six months in prison. Or the convicted murderer who escaped while on a field trip during the busy Christmas shopping period.

But this one might take the cake. Because a convicted murderer sentenced to life in prison, killed another person while on vacation.

Surprisingly, it gets better. Because our convicted murdered had been on such good behavior, Gunnar Brodin recommended that life be shortened to 21 years. He had already spent 13 years in prison. Which is a pretty solid amount of time to spend in prison, but it is a lot less than life. Our good friend, Gunnar Brodin, whoo recommended the prisoner have his sentence shortened and be allowed out on field trips, says he won’t take any responsibility for what happened. Apparently, the prisoner had been going out on regular furloughs for a few years now. Awesome.

Mr. Brodin (just pretend you’re reading the Financial Times with the Mr. in front of his name) did however, admit that allowing the murderer our on the streets was “a poor decision.” In other news, puppies are cute, grass is green, and the Red Wings suck. No shit Mr. Brodin.

I don’t even know where to begin. It is just asinine to allow this sort of thing to happen. Fine, you want to treat the criminal and rehabilitate him. Fine. But do not allow this person to wander around Stockholm, uninhibited, until you are damn sure he really is rehabilitated. Because, just guessing, just thinking he is, is not ok.

Welcome to Sweden. Where Mr. Brodin is a head prosecutor making decisions with the support of the Swedish justice system.

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  1. Well i think it's okey.

  2. It's kinda sick. According to Aftonbladet the guy has been on 154 "Vacations" between 1998 - 2007.

  3. It's not "kinda sick", it's an absolute disgrace. Most Swedes want far stronger laws and prison sentences than the ones we have now, but it's a long and difficult process to change them. I don't understand how we could get so slack on this, it's rather unlike the "strictness" of your average Swede, don't you think?

  4. Has Sweden made you more conservative? I know many American liberals who claim they became more conservative from seeing Sweden in action.

  5. @xenolyse - I disagree. at some point people need to take responsibility for their ations and not just blame their parents or their teachers.

    @ace - it is sickening. and a little bit sad.

    @terander - a good point. in a culture where you can stand at the foot of the escalator and look up to see the standers on the right and the walkers on the left, being so slack on this kind of thing is pretty surprising.

    @T AKA Ricky Raw - I dont know that its made me more conservative. I was already much more conservative than the average Swede. And I would never describe myself as an American liberal. It has made me more of an isolationist in terms of being an American though.

  6. in a word Unbelievable!

  7. Huh. Sounds like that guy was getting to go on more "vacations" from jail than many regular people get from their jobs...

    Anyone care to guess whether or not he'll a *real* life sentence for *this* murder?

  8. unbelievable! HOw do you think the family of this latest murder victim feels. so very unnecessary and wrong!!

  9. Well that is kinda strange they let him out on "vacation" that many times, but still, alot of Swedes think that the american justice system is corrupt aswell. And apparently very long prison sentences and allowing every man to have their own gun doesn't decrese the violence in the streets. Last time I checked the US had one of the highest crime rates per capita in the world (among the developed countries of course). And I don't think the family should have any part in deciding the penelty of the criminal, that is the role of the court who is impartial (hopefully), otherwise the justice system becomes very corrupt. That being said, we should have longer penalties for certain crimes, I totally agree with that (the current laws are the leftovers from the social democrat hippie era in the 70's) but I don't think, and apparently not, JUST hard penalties is the way to go.

  10. Wow. This left me speechless. Miscarriages of justice happen all over the world, not just in Sweden, but it seems as if either some countries are extremely harsh with their punishment and others take more of a laissez-faire attitude. There isn't really any way to please everyone, some are out for blood and others think that even the criminals are victims themselves.

  11. @Mike – agreed.

    @Michael – yeah, he seemed to have a pretty cushy life in prison. And the whole going on vacation as early as 1997 means he was getting vacations almost immediately after being put in prison.

    @anonymous – I can’t even imagine. And everyone is avoiding taking responsibility.

    @anonymous – I can agree that JUST hard penalties should be avoided. But this sort of penalty system is unacceptable. Even something like this happening just once should be enough to convince the Swedish people, the Swedish government, the Swedish courts, that something needs to be changed.

    @Néstor – It is a really hard situation. I would tend to err on the side of caution and go a little bit harder on the punishments. But as the anonymous comment above you notes, focusing only on hard penalties isn’t necessarily the right way to go either.

    But… it seems clear to me that the Swedish system is too lax.

  12. why do you have to bring the red wings into this?

  13. maybe he had to do "something" to prolong his stay in prison since it sounds like a decent place to be in Sweden..?

  14. Well there are no good ways to take care of criminals. Either you have this or you have the american way where they basically let the inmates themselves take care of the justice. Witch makes the prison a breeding ground for more criminals.
    Besides prison is not a punishment, it's just a place too keep people they don't know what to do with. Put them on bread and water is such an ignorant statement since half the planet lives on bread and water. hehe

  15. That's horrible, but the same type of stuff happens here in the US. Maybe we don't give prisoners vacations, but some truly horrendous people receive no punishment (or very little) for heinous crimes. This is particularly true of sex offenders who have abused/raped/murdered children. It's unbelievable and outrageous to see people such as these not even get jail time in some instances...and they always repeat offend (there are loads of stats to support that). I think once someone is found to have done something like that to a kid they need to lock them up and throw away the key. I don't believe they can be rehabilitated (again, research to back me up here), but even if they could, I don't see why they deserve a second chance considering they've ruined a child's field is psychology...and that stuff is life ruining.

    I always find stories like this to be really upsetting...I'm glad I'm not the only one.

  16. @anonymous - it's always important to point out the facts.

    @smek - like the scottish guy a couple of summers ago who wanted to spend his time in swedish prison instead of in the UK so he committed a crime here in Stockolm.

    @anonymous - youre right. so maybe the american system should focus a bit more on rehabilitation and the swedish system a bit more on punishment and they both might get it right somewhere in the middle.

    @E - you are most definitely not the only one. its interesting, because so many times Ive found that people who work closey with this sort of thing, police for example, or psychologists, are the ones with the strongest opinions about making sure that criminals are locked up. they just don't understand how you can just allow people to roam free like they do here in Sweden sometimes.

  17. It astonishes me that an individual, Mr. Gunnar Brodin in this case, has the authority to decide on vacations for incarcerated criminals but is not held responsible for such decisions. The relatives of the innocent victim should demand through the courts that Mr. Brodin be held accountable in some material way. If there is no legal recourse, then this smacks of totalitarianism, in that the agent of the state is not responsible and the state is not responsible for visiting grievous harm upon a person.

  18. Damn, that is unbelievable! And I live in Kungsholmen. *shudders*

  19. @pavellas - there are just so many things wrong with the entire situation. something ese that bothers me is not just the situation and the fact that Mr. Brodin is already shirking any responsibility, but that he would do so so early with absolutely no regard for the family of the victim. Its incredibly insensitive.

    @Gayathri - yeah, I can't really comprehend the whole situation. I seem unable to process it.

  20. While this individual misstake is unfortunate, the principle that a criminal shall be re-introduced to society is not at fault. It works very well, there are many prison customers on leave every day and very seldom does this sort of thing happen. The alternative, confining them for life, is more costly as well as counterproductive.

  21. Hmmmmm. I think this sort of thing can happen in America as well as in Sweden. Many state prison systems in the US have work release and furlough programs. Willie Horton comes to mind. (The exception would be the Federal system, which has no parole at all. If you get the sentence, you will do the time.)

    As far as keeping murderers locked up until they are rehabilitated, not even the American criminal justice system aspires to that lofty goal. In America, we let them out when their time is done regardless of whether they are rehabilitated and probably worse off than when they went in. What happened in Kungsholmen is a tragedy, but not a particularly Swedish one.

    Love your blog, by the way.

  22. @Henrik - I agree with the principle. I would just like to see it a bit more regulated so that things like this dont happen. It is definitely an anomoly, but it is one of those anomolies that just can't be accepted.

    @Laura - a good point. especially about the rehabilitation thing. while I often think that Sweden is way too lax with the prison system, they do at least strive to rehabilitate. which counts for something.