The Minister of Justice says the planned closure of Akureyri Prison in North Iceland will allow for better use of funding within the prison system. Six hundred and thirty-eight people are on a waiting list to serve sentences due to lack of space in prisons, RÚV reports. The decision has faced opposition from the City of Akureyri and others.
Minister of Justice Áslaug Arna Sigurbjörnsdóttir asserts closing the prison will free up funding for three times the number of spots in prisons in the Southwest. Funding for ten spots at Akureyri Prison could fund 30 spots in Hólmsheiði and Litla Hraun Prisons in Southwest Iceland. Akureyri City Council criticised the decision, however, saying it goes against the government’s policy to increase public jobs outside the capital area. The prison currently employs five people.
“This is of course not an insignificant decision and it is our policy to move jobs out to the countryside, but it also has to be in a way that creates jobs that pay off,” Áslaug Arna said. “Here, of course, we’re seeing that prison utilisation and the cost of operating this prison are very heavy. We are both less than 80% utilization of prison spaces, we don’t see increased funding in prisons in the near future and it’s possible to use 30 spots in the big prisons for the same funds as we use ten in the north.” Áslaug says the government will continue to work to increase public service jobs outside of the Reykjavík capital area.