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Crime, Criminal Justice, and Criminology in the Nordic Countries (From Crime and Justice in Scandinavia, P 1-32, 2011, Michael Tonry and Tapio Lappi-Seppala, eds. - See NCJ-242441)

NCJ Number
Michael Tonry; Tapio Lappi-Seppala
Date Published
32 pages
After a general description of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) and their social, cultural, and economic characteristics, this essay explains and compares these countries' punishment policies and practices, organization and operation of their justice systems, crime levels and trends, and criminal justice research.
All Nordic countries have unitary political systems and democratic constitutions. The legal systems belong predominantly to the civil law tradition, with some elements of Anglo-Saxon common law systems, forming a distinctive "Nordic family in law." The distinctive features include the primacy of written codes and a systematic approach to interpretation of laws, combined with a pragmatic approach to solving problems. The essay's section on "Crime and Punishment" reviews the use of imprisonment in Nordic countries, the rates of lethal violence, police statistics on property and violent offenses, victimization survey data, and international crime-rate comparisons based on ICVS victimization surveys. An overview of Nordic criminal justice systems notes that the administration of justice is based on nationally organized institutions. Prison authorities are administratively under the ministry of justice in all countries. The police are either under the ministry of Justice (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden) or under the ministry of interior (Finland). Prosecutorial services are under the ministry of justice in all countries. Courts have constitutionally granted independence, but are organized differently among the countries. Subsections of the discussion on the Nordic criminal justice systems address police and prosecutors; courts; criminal court sanctions (imprisonment, community sanctions, sanctions for young offenders, and mediation); and sentencing. Another major section of the essay focuses on "Criminology and Crime Prevention." Subjects considered in this section include the belief that good social policy is the best crime control policy, and Nordic trends in punitive responses to offending. 11 figures, 2 tables, and 45 references