Justice Swedish Style

The famed Karolinska Institute in Sweden faced a dilemma this last week. What to do about one of their students at the medical school had committed a vicious murder, fatally shooting someone seven times in a crime the police classified as a hate crime because of the killer's Nazi sympathies. The school expelled the murderer on the grounds that he had changed his name on his High School transcripts in order not to have his past discovered. To me though, there were two interesting parts of the story.

"After serving 6 1/2 years of an 11-year sentence, Mr. Svensson was released on parole in February 2007. According to Swedish prison standards, inmates are usually released after serving two-thirds of their sentence."


"others said he had served his time and should be permitted to stay and become a doctor."

It is interesting to me that someone can commit such a heinous crime and only receive 6 1/2 years of prison. Perhaps it is less surprising that people would feel that one's debt to society had been repaid after so short of a prison term and that this person could then be trusted to be a doctor (in the United States it is extremely unlikely that the person would ever be given a medical license). Apparently, Svensson, the murderer, had used "six years" of his 6 1/2 years in prison to take course online so it is not even clear how much of a penalty he really faced from prison. It also appears as if it might be relatively easy for one to hide their criminal record in Sweden, obviously Svensson was not released on parole, as he would have been in the US.

I have done a lot of research on the impact of criminal conviction on legitimate earnings in the US and I attempted to disentangle it from the length of the prison sentence, but it would be interesting to see if there was a similar impact in Sweden. One big difference could be if Swedes are better able to hide these criminal records. American criminals find it difficult because when they are released on parole, their employer must fill out reports to the criminal's probation officer. If you are unemployed or have a low level job for a number of years, it may be very difficult for a criminal to hide that past employment history.



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