Placement and transfer of persons sentenced to imprisonment

The serving of the sentence begins when the person arrives in prison from freedom or after the remand imprisonment ends. If the sentenced person has been sentenced to unconditional imprisonment for a maximum of two years, he or she may be placed in an open prison directly upon arrival from freedom if he or she undertakes to abstain from using intoxicating substances and submit to the substance control and fulfils the other prerequisites for the placement (Imprisonment Act, chapter 4, section 9). The placement is based on the sentence plan drawn up in a community sanctions office or the Assessment Centre.

Several factors have to be taken into account when placing a person sentenced to unconditional imprisonment (Imprisonment Act, chapter 4, section 8). They include the prisoner’s place of residence, possibilities to maintain contacts with people close to him or her, age, gender, state of health, and the prisoner’s own wish. In addition, the number of sentences imposed and earlier criminal history influence the placement.

However, a prisoner is not placed in a prison or prison ward that is more closed than what is required by the order, safety, and security of the prison or secure imprisonment. A key factor is the sentence plan: the sentenced person is placed in a prison where he or she can take part in the activity determined in the sentence plan.

The various needs, the functioning capacity, the risk of offending, and the factors linked to the prison safety and security that are stated in the sentence plan are taken into consideration in the placement. A person under 18 years of age is placed in a prison or a prison ward where he or she can be kept separate from adult prisoners unless his or her best interests require otherwise.


The Assessment Centre decides on the transfer of a prisoner to an open prison or another prison. Either the prisoner or the prison may request a transfer. The new placement of the prisoner has to be based on the sentence plan or a change in the situation or conditions of the prisoner. Therefore, the decision on a transfer is considered individually.

A transfer to an open prison depends on several prerequisites, which have to be fulfilled simultaneously (Imprisonment Act Chapter 6, section 1): the transfer has to be in accordance with the sentence plan and, thus, support the aim to live without crime. In addition, the prisoner has to be suited for the activities arranged in or approved by the open institution. It is important that the prisoner is assessed to comply with the order of the open prison as it also indicates that the prisoner will not commit an offence or leave the open prison without authorisation. One of the main prerequisites for a transfer to an open prison is the commitment to abstain from intoxicating substances and to submit to substance control. See also chapter 4, section 8 of the Imprisonment Act.

If a prisoner commits an offence or a disciplinary infraction in an open prison or refuses to participate in the activities in the open prison, he or she may be transferred back to a closed prison (Imprisonment Act, chapter 6, section 2). A prisoner may also be transferred to a closed prison if the prisoner is remanded for another offence, it is found that, prior to his or her entry into the open prison, he or she had committed an offence, or a new prison sentence imposed on him or her is to be enforced. In addition, the transfer may be justified in order to ensure the safety of the prisoner or in order to prevent criminal activity.

A prisoner may be transferred from an open prison or a closed prison to another open or closed prison (Imprisonment Act, chapter 6, section 3) at the request of the prisoner or the prison if this ensures the implementation of the sentence plan or is otherwise justifiable. In some situations, is it necessary to transfer a prisoner to another prison if there are grounds to suspect that prisoner may escape or the order, safety, or security of the prison so requires. If the prison is overcrowded, a prisoner may be transferred to another prison also in order to balance out the occupancy rates of prisons.

Published 4.12.2019