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Towards a Rational and Humane Criminal Policy: Trends in Scandinavian Penal Thinking

NCJ Number
Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention Volume: 1 Issue: 2 Dated: 2000 Pages: 141-155
Raimo Lahti
Date Published
15 pages
This article provides an overview of ideological trends in the criminal policy of the Nordic countries since the 1960's.
Although criminal policy in these countries is not unified, the existence of a “Scandinavian criminal policy” is characterized by several common features concerning historical tradition, intensive cooperation and a similar approach to crime prevention and control. In the Nordic countries the treatment ideology, which aimed at indefinite or individualized sanctions, began to be criticized in the late 1960's. This criticism was built on numerous reasons, including the ineffectiveness of identifying treatments that would decrease recidivism and the lack of legal security arising from the individualization of sanctions. This criticism against the idea of treatment and the reappraisal of the role of the criminal justice system and the function of penal sanctions was reflective of a new criminal policy in which the emphasis was put on justice, legal security and humaneness. Some Nordic countries looked at criminal policy as a part of general social policy, even if their main emphasis was on the reappraisal of the system of sanctions in penal law. It was realized that the criminal justice system had a limiting effect on the level or structure of crime and the role of social planning and crime prevention as alternatives and complements was increasing. In the 1990's the main issues were the need for humane penal law policy which called for less use of imprisonment and more community service. Mediation or reconciliation between the offender and the victim has also been introduced as new types of sanction. The internalization and Europeanization of criminal policy can be observed in a number of signs, including the perception that the development of criminal justice systems are global exercises and the trend toward regionalization. 38 references.