Gang members to serve sentences outside Denmark

Gang members wanting to start new lives will benefit from serving prison sentences far from the criminal environment argues justice minister

Former gang members should be allowed to serve their jail sentences in other Scandinavian prisons in order to help them move on from their lives of crime.

The justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), will propose this idea at a meeting with his Nordic colleagues today, reports Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

“We need to make an extra effort for people who have broken with their networks, moved on from their past, and testified against brothers who they committed crimes with,” Bødskov told Jyllands-Posten.

A fresh start
He added that moving former gang members outside of Denmark could be an effective method to help them start new lives.  Bødskov also proposes that Swedish and Norwegian gang member should be offered the opportunity to serve their sentences in Denmark.

“They may need to get completely away because these serious cases are often associated with high levels of attention from the public and criminal networks and because there are a lot of groups in prison that are in conflict with each other,” he said.

The offer of serving in a Scandinavian prison outside Denmark will become part of the so-called “exit programme” for former gang members that is offered by the prison service and the Justice Ministry. 

READ MORE: New gang exit programme for immigrants proposed

According to Folketings Retsudvalg, parliament's justice council, 50 gang members have taken advantage of the programme over the past two years.

The programme is not uncontroversial, however, and in April the government was accused of failing to follow through with the promises of relocating gang members who wanted to start new lives, because the programme was launched prematurely.

New secure gang court
This past weekend at the Socialdemokraterne party conference, PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt proposed establishing a secure court in the prison Vestre Fængsel.

“We should not accept that time and again court cases become a huge draw for gang members,” Thorning-Schmidt said.

READ MORE: Gang exit strategy failing, politicians say

The new court will protect witnesses from attack and also create a more secure setting for trials that historically have proven problematic because of their connection to the gang environment.

For example, in March 2012 police arrested 140 armed gang members outside Glostrup City Court after they attempted to disrupt a gang-related murder trial.