Denmark transfers prisoners to Kosovo to ease overcrowding

People due to be deported at end of sentences will be moved to one of 300 rented cells

Prisons in Denmark face overcrowding and a shortage of prison officers, politicians have said. AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Denmark will deport hundreds of prisoners to Kosovo to free up space in its overcrowded jails.

The 300 rented prison cells in Kosovo will house people who are due to be expelled from Denmark at the end of their sentence.

The agreement announced on Wednesday comes as Denmark faces a shortage of 1,000 prison cells by 2025, said Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup.

Although it is known for its relatively mild treatment of prisoners, politicians in Denmark said conditions were worsening, with cases of assault and harassment causing concern.

Mr Haekkerup said a wider package of measures would include better training for prison officers in Denmark, whose numbers have declined while inmate numbers have risen.

The prison population has grown by almost a fifth since 2015, reaching more than 4,000 at the start of this year – over 100 per cent of capacity.

Although there has been no significant rise in crime rates like in neighbouring Sweden, longer prison sentences averaging nine months last year were partly blamed for the problem.

“We are expanding with more prison places in Danish prisons in both the short and long term,” Mr Haekkerup said.

“Among other things, we agree that work must be done to rent prison places in Kosovo to convicts from third countries.”

It was not clear why Kosovo was chosen. About 97 per cent of its cells were filled in 2019, according to the watchdog World Prison Brief.

The UK government says Kosovo’s prisons generally meet international standards but have problems in some establishments, including poor facilities.

Norway and Belgium have previously rented prison cells in the Netherlands to relieve overcrowding.

Kasper Sand Kjaer, a spokesman for the ruling Social Democrats, said the Danish prison system was facing great challenges.

“There is an acute shortage of places, the staff are under pressure and the environment in the prisons has become harsher,” he said. “We have seen far too many cases of assault and harassment by prison guards.

“There will be more employees in the penitentiary, more places, improvements in the working environment and [we] will hopefully give more inmates the opportunity for a law-abiding life.”

Updated: December 16, 2021, 11:52 AM