As of this moment, there are 387 eastern Europeans sitting behind bars somewhere in Denmark. That number has risen ten percent since 2011. Eastern Europeans now make up one tenth of the country’s total prison population according to numbers released by Kriminalforsorgen, the nation’s prison and probation system.
“There has been a marked increase of eastern European inmates over the last year,” Peter Vesterheden, the head warden of the Copenhagen prison system, told Politiken newspaper.
Citizens from Romania and Lithuania top the list of nationalities represented in Danish prisons.
A jailer in the southern Jutland town of Sønderborg said his facility is mostly filled with thieves and burglars from eastern Europe.
“We have room for 26 inmates, and 16 of those spots are filled with prisoners from Poland or Lithuania,” Per Schultz told Politiken. “Most of them are in here for committing burglary.”
Research from the national bureau of investigation, Nationale Efterforskningscenter, showed that foreign criminals were responsible for 15-25 percent of all burglaries in 2012 and that number has remained static during the first half of 2013.
Whenever possible, foreigners are deported once their sentences have been served. Kim Østerbye, the head of the union representing uniformed prison staff, Dansk Fængselsforbund, sees it as a problem that resources are spent on rehabilitating prisoners who will never be a part of the community.
“Foreign prisoners should not be treated more harshly, but we should develop less expensive lockups without the broad range of services for those who are only going to be sent home once their time is up,” Østerbye told Politiken.
The head of parliament’s legal committee, Karina Dehnhardt Lorentzen (Socialistisk Folkeparti), said that government plans to address the increasing number of eastern European prisoners as part of its multi-year plan to overhaul the prison system.