The average prison population has increased but recidivism has decreased

Published 7.7.2020  Updated 10.7.2020

The Criminal Sanctions Agency has published the 2019 Statistical Yearbook providing an up-to-date snapshot of the numbers of clients and prisoners under the jurisdiction of the Criminal Sanctions Agency and the agency’s activities. The number of prisoners sentenced for violent offences decreased in 2019 while the average prisoner population and number of community sanction clients increased. Over a longer period of review, recidivism has declined.

The number of persons sentenced for violent offences continues to decrease.

The average daily number of prisoners has dropped since the mid-2000s with the exception of 2016 and 2019 when the number increased slightly. In 2019, the average daily number of prisoners was 2 952, which was 40 prisoners more than the year before. The rise was mainly caused by the increase in the number of remand prisoners.

The daily average number of remand prisoners (639) rose by 17 per cent compared with the previous year. The increase is due to a reform introduced at the beginning of 2019 as a result of which the number of remand prisoners detained at police prisons decreased in an equal degree. However, the amount of sentenced prisoners continued to decrease in 2019, their average daily number being 2,247.

The biggest prisoner group is those sentenced for violent offences although their share has dropped since the early 2010s. In 2019, over a third of the prisoners had been sentenced for violent offences (21 per cent for homicide and 16 per cent for assault). The number of offenders sentenced for narcotics offences has increased. In 2019, their share of all sentenced prisoners was over a fifth (21%). The average age of sentenced prisoners was 37.2 years.

At the end of 2019, there were 14 community sanctions offices and 26 prisons in Finland. Of prisoner places, 67 per cent are in closed prisons and 33 per cent in open prisons or open prison wards.

The average length of the prison term was 10.9 months

The share of first-time offenders has risen from 32 to 38 per cent in the past ten years. The average number of female prisoners in 2019 was 228. The share of foreign prisoners of all prisoners was 17 per cent.

The total number of prisoners released from prison in 2019 was 5,807 of whom 3,138 were sentenced prisoners, 1,389 fine default prisoners, and 1,280 remand prisoners. Over 40 per cent (1,316) of the sentenced prisoners had served at most three months and 12 per cent over two years of their sentence in prison. The average length of the prison term was 10.9 months.

The number of community sanction clients has increased

The number of community sanction clients has taken an upward turn after a downward trend that lasted over ten years. This is largely due to a 7 per cent increase in the number of clients serving a community service sentence. The daily average number of community sanction clients was 3,031. The most common main offence among community service clients was driving while intoxicated (42%); the next most common offences were property offences (20%) and violent offences (14%). On average, more than half of community sanction clients are unemployed.

Reduction in recidivism

The recidivism of sentenced prisoners released in 2006–2014 has decreased by 7 percentage points. The biggest changes were in the recidivism of released first-time prisoners and female prisoners. During the most recent years included in the statistics, recidivism has steadied at about 60 per cent. The key indicators of recidivism are criminal history and age: multiple offenders are at high risk to reoffend and young offenders are more likely to return to prison than older ones.

The Statistical Yearbooks are available here.

Additional information:

Marja-Liisa Muiluvuori +358 (0)50 531 7985
available until 9 July and again from 13 August

Peter Blomster +358 (0)50 339 6394
available until 17 July

Tuomas Laurila +358 (0)50 304 2068