skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 193938 Find in a Library
Title: Penal Policy and Incarceration Rates in Finland
Journal: Corrections Today  Volume:64  Issue:1  Dated:February 2002  Pages:30-33
Author(s): Tapio Lappi-Seppala
Date Published: 2002
Page Count: 4
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article examines the successful program of “decarceration,” the trend toward less incarceration, and liberalization of criminal law practices in Finland.
Abstract: At the beginning of the 1950's, the incarceration rate in Finland was four times higher than in other Nordic countries. By the end of the 1950's, the courts had begun to reduce the length of sentences. Between 1950 and 1965, the average length of all prison sentences fell from 13 to 7 months. Average prison sentences for aggravated assault and all forms of robbery dropped from 2 years to 1 year. In addition, the use of different sentencing alternatives has changed. In 1971, 38 percent of offenders sentenced for theft received custodial sentences; in 1991, this proportion had decreased to 11 percent. In the mid-1960's, nearly 90 percent of drunken drivers received unconditional prison sentences; in the early 1970's, the figure was 70 percent, but 10 years later, the proportion had dropped to 12 percent. Behind these changes were amendments made in the general penalty structure. To replace short prison sentences with other sanctions, the scope of suspended sentences and fines were extended in the mid-1970's. During the 1990's, penalties remained constant. The only major amendment in the system was the introduction of community service. Along with an increase in the number of community service orders, the number of unconditional sentences of imprisonment decreased between 1992 and 1993. Enforcement practices have also contributed to the decrease in incarceration. A number of legislative initiatives were carried out in the 1960's to restrict the use of imprisonment as a default penalty for unpaid fines. The system of parole and early release was also a powerful tool in controlling incarceration rates. The profound change in the use of imprisonment raises questions about its effect on crime. That Finland has substantially reduced its incarceration rate has not had an influence on crime rates. This shows that crime rates and incarceration rates are independent of each other. References
Main Term(s): Criminal codes; Criminal justice system effectiveness; Finland
Index Term(s): Arrest statistics; Crime specific law reform; Criminal justice statistics; Criminalization; Effectiveness of crime prevention programs; Foreign corrections statistics; Foreign criminal codes; Foreign criminal justice systems; Laws and Statutes; Sentence effectiveness
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.