Former PM: Put foreign criminals in worse prisons

Leader of opposition party Venstre says foreign criminals are a problem, but government parties argue the blame lies with polices passed by his party while it was in power

Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the former prime minister and leader of opposition party Venstre, has said that foreign criminals should not be entitled to the same quality of incarceration as Danish inmates and criticised the government for not doing enough to deport them.

“The problem is that the standard of treatment they receive in Danish prisons is far higher than they would expect in eastern Europe,” Rasmussen told Sjællands Nyheder newspaper. “Foreign criminals are a major problem who we have to develop a realistic solution for. We have just been so very naïve about how to tackle the challenge that foreign criminal networks pose.”

Rasmussen added that Denmark should follow Norway’s lead and find ways to send more foreign criminals to serve their prison sentences in their home countries.

According to Sjællands Nyheder, Norway deported 52 foreign criminals last year while Denmark only deported two.

Rasmussen’s statements were criticised by a number of political parties, however, particularly as Venstre opted not to support the recent prison services bill that focused on tackling the rising number of foreign criminals in Danish prisons. The bill was still passed, though.

“The new deal for the prison services budget will mean that prisons will be split into sections so that foreign criminals do not affect [Danish] prisoners who need to be resocialised,” Ole Hækkerup, the legal spokesperson for Socialdemokraterne, told Berlingske. “But Venstre did not want to join the deal, so I think it is rather incredible that Lars Løkke Rasmussen is now proposing essentially the same thing.”

Hækkerup added that the prison services deal established an administrative unit, Taskforce Hjemsendelse, which will push to implement the EU directives to make it easier to send prisoners to their home countries to serve their sentences.

Fellow opposition party Konservative also questioned Rasmussen’s position.

“The separation of foreigners and Danish residents was something I especially focused on during the negotiations so that we can improve our efforts to resocialise our prisoners,” Konservative legal spokesperson Tom Behnke told Berlingske.

The justice minister, Morten Bødskov, added that foreign criminals only started to become a real problem during the last term of the former government.

“Under his governing period, there was an explosion in the number of criminals sentenced to deportation," Bødskov told Sjællands Nyheder. "So it is the governments he was a member of that were unable to send criminals home.”

According to the Justice Ministry, the number of foreigners in Danish jails increased by 36 percent under the former government’s last term, between 2007 and 2011, from 703 to 956. That number has now risen to over 1,100.