Record prison numbers in 2016

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When examining all types of sentences as a whole, 2016 was a record year for prison numbers.

When sentences served in institutions, by electronic monitoring, for the non-payment of a fine and remands in custody are taken as a whole, the number of sentences in 2016 was the highest ever. The figures were particularly high for sentences served in institutions, but there was also an increase in the numbers serving sentences for non-payment of a fine and using electronic monitoring.

We see that several trends from previous years have been continued, including in the use of custody and electronic monitoring. The fact that Norgerhaven prison in the Netherlands was part of the Norwegian Correctional Services throughout 2016 presumably has an even greater impact on the statistics on imprisonments in 2016, both in terms of type of imprisonment and those imprisoned.

Over 1 million days served in prison

In 2016, a total of 1 085 000 days were served in prison facilities. This means that on an average day that year, 2 964 persons were serving a sentence in a prison facility. Of these, 2 774 were serving a prison sentence, 89 were in preventive detention and 100 were serving a prison sentence for non-payment of a fine. Overall, this is 3.6 per cent more than in the previous year and as much as 7.7 per cent more than in 2014. As illustrated in figure 1, this is the highest average prison population ever recorded in the time series of the statistics dating back to 1960.

1 Prison sentence by electronic monitoring (2008-2016) not included. The age of criminal responsibility is 14 years until 1989, and 15 years from 1990

Figure 1. Average number of prison population, by type of imprisonment¹

Custody Serving sentence for non-payment of a fine Prison sentence and preventive detention/security detention Prison sentence, institution
1960 353 177 1042
1961 356 143 1056
1962 416 124 1108
1963 447 115 1222
1964 384 135 1295
1965 384 132 84 1229
1966 404 111 79 1186
1967 448 91 73 1251
1968 444 90 68 1271
1969 493 104 68 1157
1970 507 38 58 1089
1971 521 19 46 1126
1972 469 25 55 1258
1973 519 18 60 1315
1974 498 21 41 1364
1975 483 18 26 1386
1976 411 18 26 1347
1977 421 15 21 1322
1978 406 13 15 1347
1979 405 15 22 1306
1980 387 23 19 1368
1981 415 29 14 1342
1982 496 25 23 1344
1983 564 21 27 1421
1984 538 17 36 1453
1985 493 13 44 1554
1986 432 16 46 1508
1987 433 18 47 1525
1988 461 17 62 1573
1989 491 22 77 1618
1990 499 14 77 1789
1991 533 41 83 1891
1992 547 33 71 1826
1993 532 53 74 1991
1994 532 62 79 1997
1995 521 55 78 1951
1996 584 30 84 1904
1997 593 42 77 1824
1998 588 36 75 1767
1999 624 43 58 1787
2000 594 44 52 1859
2001 612 47 61 2041
2002 666 52 64 2050
2003 644 38 69 2194
2004 618 47 72 2290
2005 585 109 76 2354
2006 572 85 75 2519
2007 664 84 78 2594
2008 731 112 76 2469
2009 803 106 71 2423
2010 993 77 71 2484
2011 935 74 79 2639
2012 947 75 83 2578
2013 1030 68 85 2551
2014 1051 85 88 2581
2015 1003 79 93 2688
2016 1005 100 89 2774

More sentences also served with an ankle monitor

As illustrated in figure 2 and the statistics from previous years, there has been a large increase in the number of persons serving either the whole or part of a sentence using electronic monitoring (EM) with an ankle monitor. The 3 113 discharges from EM in 2016 were almost 5 per cent more than the previous year and as much as 26 per cent more than in 2014.

Figure 2. Discharges, by type of imprisonment. Absolute figures

2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Servingsentencefor non-payment of afine 900 1072 654 679 1605 1287 1241 1601 1435 1082 970 1002 822 916 881 1049
Custody 2694 2724 2339 2007 1984 1972 1888 1881 2205 2409 2203 2184 2146 1909 1824 1692
Electronic monitoring 0 70 689 917 960 1385 1727 2479 2967 3113
Prison sentence and preventive detention/ security detention 8072 7699 7847 8151 8413 8966 9644 9147 7861 7727 7208 6972 6632 5756 5823 6257

More served shorter sentences, especially for driving under the influence

There was a total of 9 357 discharges from sentences in 2016. Of these, 5 667 were completed sentences of less than two months, which is almost 8 per cent more than in the previous year. Among these, the largest increase was for those who had served a sentence for driving under the influence, and this was the principal offence in 2 104 of these sentences. This is an increase of more than 25 per cent compared to the four preceding years, and much of the increase was in sentences served in prison facilities.

More short sentences were served in prison, after eight years with a major decline

The number of discharges from prison institutions after serving less than two months has been decreasing every year, and was more than halved overall in the period 2007–2015. In 2016, however, 9 per cent more of such short sentences were served in prison institutions, as illustrated in figure 3. This was mainly due to a 41 per cent increase in sentences served for driving under the influence.

Home detention with an ankle monitor (EM) is a major contributor to the growing number of shorter sentences in particular being served outside prison facilities. The increase in shorter prison sentences in 2016 therefore represents a clear break in one of the most significant trends in the Norwegian Correctional Services in recent years. In the statistics on imprisonment, this break is shown in different ways, partly through the relatively large increase in female prisoners.

Some features of the development must thus be seen in light of the developments in the statistics on those charged and sanctioned for the various types of offences. However, the considerable changes in relation to prison institutions must be viewed in conjunction with the high number of prison places available at the end of 2015 and throughout 2016 – especially due to the transfer of prisoners to Norgerhaven in the Netherlands.

Figure 3

Figure 3. Discharges from serving sentence in prison or with electronic monitoring (EM), by prison time

More persons sentenced for more serious offences

The increase in prisoner numbers was not solely due to the rise in short sentences. For instance, there were 1 660 new imprisonments in prison institutions for violence and maltreatment in 2016, which is almost 8 per cent more than the year before. In this group of principal offences, there was an increase in sentences for both grievous bodily harm and maltreatment in close relations.

Fewer, but longer stays in custody

On an average day in 2016, 1 005 persons were being held in custody. This is the same high level as in the previous six years, as illustrated in figure 1. A total of 3 189 stays in custody were finished in 2016, which is 7 per cent fewer than in 2015 and as much as 21 per cent fewer than in 2013. The decline in both periods is thus approximately equal among those who are released directly from custody and those who are held in custody until they are transferred to serve the remainder of their sentence of uconditional imprisonment.

Norwegian citizens now in the majority

In the period 2013–2016, there was a particularly large decline in the number remanded in custody for theft and narcotic offences. Compared to earlier years, there were also significantly fewer remanded in custody for violations of immigration legislation. Overall, the decline among foreign citizens is the largest contributor to the fall in the number of stays in custody in recent years. Thus, for the first time in the five-year period for which we have such statistics, the number of stays in custody was higher for Norwegians than for non-Norwegians in 2016, as illustrated in figure 4.

Figure 4

Figure 4. New imprisonments, prison sentence and custody, by group of principal offence and citizenchip. 2016

New data from the new Sanction Register

On 1 October 2015, the Sanction Register (SSP 3.0) replaced the Norwegian Central Criminal Record and Police Information System (SSP 2.0). Thus, 2016 is the first full year with data from the new register. However, the extraction to the imprisonment statistics is almost the same as in previous years. The clearest exception is the arrests and custody remands, which do not take place in the Correctional Services and are only carried out by the police. These are not registered in the new Sanction Register. This may have resulted in a small reduction in the number of the very shortest entries and departures from custody in 2015 and 2016.

New statistics with new classification of offences

As a consequence of the introduction of the Penal Code of 2005 and new police codes for registering offences in the police registers on 1 October 2015, Statistics Norway now publishes figures according to the new Standard for type of offences. The standard includes new groupings of both type of offence and group of offence, and the new groupings are available in StatBank – on the prison population as per 1 January and on discharges dating back to 2002, while new imprisonments and transfers from custody to serving a sentence date back to 2012. A detailed overview, including lists of police codes for offences, is available in Statistical Classifications and code lists.

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