Sweden has ‘lost control’ of its prisons as inmates ‘take over’ amid spike in violence against officers, union chiefs warn

By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

Union leaders are warning that Swedish prison officers have lost control of the country’s prisons, with overcrowding leading to a spike in threats and violence.

“We are losing control. The inmates more or less have taken over the prisons,” said Christer Hallqvist, chairman of the Seko union’s Department of Correctional Services.

He revealed that staff had no choice but to distance themselves from the prisoners, as they do not currently have the resources to “avert incidents,” and warned that the current situation will “end in disaster.”

“We have crossed the line. The politicians need to calm down with their decisions so we can catch up,” he added.

The Swedish government made a crackdown on crime one of its key electoral pledges and has sought to tackle head-on the ongoing crisis of gang violence affecting the country.

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Rampant gang crime has been met by Sweden’s center-right administration, led by Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, introducing greater powers for police and harsher punishments for firearms offenses in a bid to stem record gun-related homicides in the Scandinavian country.

Just last week, the Swedish government announced new powers for police to stop and search youths wearing fake designer clothing in the latest attempt to tackle the ongoing gang turf wars that have seen Sweden become the country with the highest fatal shootings in Europe after Albania.

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However, the added focus on crime has not run parallel to sufficient investment in the country’s prisons, and overcrowding has become a major problem — something that leading government officials are at least recognizing.

“It is a very strained situation in Swedish penitentiary care,” said Minister of Justice Gunnar Strömmer.

“It is a result of serious development in terms of crime over many years and the expansion of the Correctional Service started far too late.

“Now, we are taking all the measures we can in order to achieve an expansion in the long term and in the short term to give the Correctional Service the conditions to handle the pressure you are experiencing here and now,” he added.

According to the Correctional Service’s own data, threats and violence in prisons are now the highest they have been in recent times, with 1,333 cases of violence between inmates recorded last year, up from 1,198 in 2022 and 1,242 in 2021.

Concerningly, 2,354 cases of threats and violence toward prison staff were recorded last year, up from 1,962 and 1,744 cases in the two previous years.

The country has been facing a losing battle in tackling gang crime for years, and the link between gang warfare and mass immigration has been widely acknowledged at the highest levels of government.

Former Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said during her time in office that Sweden’s failing multicultural society had contributed to gang crime thriving in the suburbs of major cities. “Segregation has been allowed to go so far that we have parallel societies in Sweden. We live in the same country but in completely different realities,” she said back in 2022.

“Integration has been too poor at the same time, as we have had high immigration. Society has been too weak, resources for the police and social services have been too weak,” she added.

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