As in many domestic prison systems, in Finland the number of women in prison has been increasing over the last few decades. However, since these women still amount to a small percentage of the entire prison population, adequate facilities for them are scarce. This chapter presents an overview of the rules and policies relevant to women in prison in Finland.
INTERNATIONAL AND HUMAN RIGHTS FRAMEWORK
In May 1990, Finland ratified the European Convention on Human Rights. The Convention had an immediate and direct impact on detention rules, as the maximum length of police detention fell overnight from 21 days to three days. But the ratification of the Convention had deeper consequences too. It impacted on doctrines of legal interpretation, developed in constitutional theory. The Convention does not have absolute precedence over other statutory law in Finland, but should there be a conflict between these norms, a doctrine of “human rights friendly interpretation”, as developed by the Constitutional Law Committee, provides that the interpretation and application of laws shall always aim at obtaining a result that, as closely as possible, corresponds to the international obligations of Finland in the field of human rights. The same principle has also been declared in the new Finnish Constitution, which entered into force in 2000. According to section 22, public authorities shall “guarantee the observance of basic and human rights”. This confirms on a constitutional level the Constitutional Law Committee's “human rights friendly interpretation” of national law. As a result, the Finnish courts have more and more often referred to the articles of the Convention in their decisions.
Section 7 of the Finnish Constitution states that
“No one shall be sentenced to death, tortured or otherwise treated in a manner violating human dignity.”
“The rights of individuals deprived of their liberty shall be guaranteed by an Act.”
The latter provision means that deprivation of liberty must be based on an Act of Parliament (not on inferior norms).
STATISTICS ON WOMEN IN CRIME, IN DETENTION AND IN PRISON/CRIMINOLOGICAL FACTORS
Over the last 35 years, Finnish women have become more involved with the criminal justice System. They have committed more crimes, for which they have been convicted and detained, as Tables 1-5 show. However, the number of female prisoners is still rather low in Finland in comparison to the number of male prisoners, which causes problems.