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Photo: Golli. Sun shines on a bench in Hólmsheiði prison.

New Prison to Replace Litla-Hraun

A new prison will be built to replace the largest prison in Iceland, Litla-Hraun, RÚV reports. Construction of the new facilities is expected to cost ISK 7 billion [$51.2 million, €48.1 million]. In the coming months, the number of rooms in women’s prison Sogn will also be increased from 21 to 35.

Minister of Justice Guðrún Hafsteinsdóttir announced major prison reforms at a press conference at Litla-Hraun this morning. They include not only the construction of a new prison but also an increase in the number of cells, and a revision of the Enforcement Act.

New prison pending and repairs to Litla-Hraun

A detailed inspection of the facilities at Litla-Hraun revealed that it would be cheaper to build a new prison than to make the necessary repairs to Litla-Hraun. A new prison will be built on state-owned land to the east of the current Litla-Hraun facilities.

According to Guðrún, however, Litla-Hraun will not be shut down, “but the days of Litla-Hraun as we know them today are over, fortunately, I would say.” ISK 2 billion [$14.6 million, €] has been secured from the state treasury to repair the current facilities. It is not clear whether some or all of the current facilities will be torn down.

Women face worse conditions in prison

A recent report concluded that women’s conditions in Icelandic prisons were worse than men’s. With the expansion of Sogn, their situation will be improved, the Minister of Justice stated. The expansion at Sogn is expected to cost ISK 350 million [$2.6 million, €2.4 million].

Preparations to begin immediately

Preparations for the construction of a new prison will begin immediately, the Minister stated. “Now I trust the Government Property Agency to resolve everything quickly and well.” Emphasis will be placed on building a modern prison that ensures the safety of both prisoners and staff, and not least on improving the conditions of families, especially children.

Litla-Hraun will continue to be solely a prison for men. Guðrún stated that there are more women in prison in Iceland than ever before, the majority serving at Hólmsheiði. However, the decision has been made to increase the number of rooms at Sogn, an open prison for women, rather than Hólmsheiði, a closed detention centre like Litla-Hraun.

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