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NCJ Number: 204444 Find in a Library
Title: Crime and Punishment in Sweden: Historical Criminal Justice Statistics 1750-2000
Journal: Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention  Volume:4  Issue:2  Dated:2003  Pages:162-179
Author(s): Hanns Von Hofer
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 18
Type: Historical Overview
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Sweden
Annotation: This article summarizes a Swedish-language book ("Brott och straff i Sverige 1750-2000," Hanns von Hofer) that provides a historical perspective on crime and punishment in Sweden, with a focus on the descriptive findings of those chapters considered by the author to be most relevant for non-Scandinavian readers.
Abstract: The court statistics used in this historical study are treated partly as indicators of formal social control and partly as indicators of crime trends. Data on homicide were available from population and vital statistics (from 1750's onward) and also from conviction statistics (from the 1830's onward). There was a high degree of correlation between these two data sources. Over the entire period studied (1750-2000), there has been hardly any increase in the number of homicides per capita. There was some upswing during the 1960's and 1970's, primarily for male victims. The author attributes this increase to increased alcohol consumption, the emergence of a group of offenders with extensive criminal records, and Sweden's relatively high rate of immigration. Approximately three-fourths of convicted killers were sentenced to prison, with one-quarter sentenced to compulsory residential psychiatric care. There are no control series for assault convictions that would function in the same way as the vital statistics for homicide. The author assumes it unlikely that people's readiness to report assault crimes has waned historically; thus, official statistics are deemed sufficiently reliable in the study. Trends in assault convictions were found to co-vary with trends in alcohol consumption, so that much of the variation in the assault rate disappears when changes in alcohol consumption are taken into account. The increase in assault convictions after 1965 coincided with an increase in the use of imprisonment as a penal sanction for the offense. Regarding rape, the noted modern increases in the level of registered rapes and of convictions for rape might be indicative of the improved legal protection for victims, rather than an actual increase in the rate of rapes; however, the trend in rape offenses after World War II closely resembles that of homicide, with large changes among persons with previous criminal records and immigrants. Trends in convictions and sentencing are also noted for theft and repeated theft and robbery. Trends in serious offenses by specific groups of offenders (women and men, young and old, Swedish and foreign citizens, and those with prior criminal records) are also examined. Overall, the author notes that with few exceptions, levels of all groups of offenses increased after World War II. In a matter of just two decades, Sweden was transformed from the country with the lowest crime rates in Scandinavia to the country with the highest. All groups of offenders increased in relation to the size of the population, but persons with the lengthiest criminal records increased the most. Traditional Swedish crime policy measures , i.e., imprisonment and probation, have not prevented the emergence of a group of highly criminalized offenders, nor have they enabled these persons to find a path to a law-abiding life. The author concludes that Swedish criminal policy has stagnated over the past decade, being drained of any progressive social imagination. 16 figures and 34 references
Main Term(s): Foreign crime statistics
Index Term(s): Aggravated assault; Assault and battery; Crime in foreign countries; Foreign sentencing; Homicide trends; Offense statistics; Rape; Rape statistics; Sentencing trends; Trend analysis
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