Minister of Justice, Jón Gunnarsson, has stated the need for further public funding of the prison system. Vísir reports.
According to the minister, increased public support would allow Icelandic prisons to take further steps towards a rehabilitation policy. Such a rehabilitation policy would not just increase resources in the prison system, but also increase the available resources to former inmates once their sentences have ended.
The minister’s suggestions follow recent calls by experts for a more rehabilitative prison system which emphasizes re-integrating inmates into society through work and education programmes.
In recent statements to Vísir, the minister acknowledges that the issue is not new and that the situation has been unsatisfactory for years.
“We’ve been having this conversation for some time, and we have taken some measures that have helped significantly, but we must do better,” stated Jón Gunnarsson, adding that there must be cooperation between ministries to improve the situation of mentally ill inmates. “Prisoners have the right to healthcare like other citizens. There are far too many examples of people falling through the cracks of the healthcare system and the prison authorities. We need to find solutions for this.”
The minister likewise called for greater support in finding job placement for former inmates.
Although Iceland has made some advances in these fields, Jón reiterated the need to prioritize rehabilitation and allow inmates to contribute to society.
“I am concerned that people are not being given adequate resources to provide them with appropriate treatment, and prison authorities are even keeping people longer than they are supposed to be in prison because they are considered a danger to their environment when they leave. This can create the expectation that when they leave prison, they may even immediately commit serious crimes. So, we need to improve in these areas,” says Jón.
He has additionally stated that it is necessary to improve the conditions of prison guards to enable them to deal better with prisoners’ needs, both in terms of mental health and rehabilitation.