The Ombudsman investigates prison inmates’ access to visits and occupation

In 2024, the Ombudsman’s monitoring visits to institutions for adults will focus on access to visits and occupation for inmates in state and local prisons.

Access to seeing your close relatives and to have relevant occupation is of great importance for the wellbeing of inmates during imprisonment, and for rehabilitation.

However, the physical environment in the institutions under the Prison and Probation Service varies. In addition, the Prison and Probation Service has in recent years had the highest occupancy rate since the years immediately after World War II, and there has at the same time been a marked decrease in the number of prison officers.

This can have an impact on what access to visits and occupation the inmates actually have in practice in the individual institutions. In connection with previous monitoring visits to state and local prisons, the Ombudsman has found that there may be challenges in for instance providing inmates with relevant occupation and that visiting rooms and teaching rooms are used for accommodation and other purposes.

During the monitoring visits, the Ombudsman will therefore focus on the handling and execution of visits to the institutions, and he will look at the visiting facilities. The monitoring will also include the inmates’ access to visits from their defence lawyers.

Furthermore, the Ombudsman will focus on whether the inmates are offered education or occupation, the nature and relevance of such education and occupation for the inmates, and on how the possibilities of occupation are created.

‘One of the important tasks for the Prison and Probation Service is to help the inmates leave crime behind. Some of the central tools in that context is to give the inmates the possibility of having visits from their relatives and access to relevant education or occupation while they are imprisoned. The complaints we receive and our monitoring show that these possiblities can be under pressure. That is why the theme has been chosen as the focus for our monitoring activities this year’, says Parliamentary Ombudsman Niels Fenger.

The monitoring visits are carried out in cooperation with the Danish Institute for Human Rights and DIGNITY – Danish Institute Against Torture.

At the end of the monitoring year, the Ombudsman will summarise the most important results in a thematic report.

Further details:

Director of International Relations Klavs Kinnerup Hede kkh@ombudsmanden.dk

 

FACTS

Investigation

The Ombudsman will visit a number of state and local prisons as part of the thematic investigation. During the monitoring visits, the Ombudsman will discuss the inmates’ access to visits and occupation with the institutions’ management, inmates, volunteer visitors and staff, and the visiting teams will also look at the institutions’ facilities for visits, workshops and teaching.

Read more about the Ombudsman’s monitoring visits and themes.

Visits

Generally, persons serving a sentence are entitled to at least one weekly visit of at least one hour’s duration and as far as possible of two hours’ duration. The individual institution can give permission for visits to a wider extent (Section 51 of the Sentence Enforcement Act).

Remand prisoners can receive visits to the extent that maintenance of order and security in the remand prison allows. The police may, in consideration of the objective of the detention in custody, oppose visits paid to the remand prisoner or may demand that visits shall be supervised (Section 771(1), 1st and 2nd sentence of the Administration of Justice Act).

It follows from the Executive Order on Remand Custody that remand prisoners, with the limitations pursuant to Sections 42-45 of the Order, have a right to receive visits as often as circumstances allow. Visiting time must not be shorter than 30 minutes. Longer visits must be allowed to the extent that circumstances allow (Section 40(1) and Section 41 in Executive Order No. 1130 of 17 August 2023 on remand detention).

Occupation

Persons serving a prison sentence have both a right and a duty to engage in occupation. Remand prisoners and persons serving a sentence and placed in a remand prison have a right to occupation but are not covered by the duty to work. This means that all remand prisoners and persons serving a sentence must be offered occupation (Section 38 of the Sentence Enforcement Act and Sections 1 and 2 of Executive Order No. 1016 of 28 June 2022 on occupation etc. of inmates in the Prison and Probation Service institutions).

In each individual case, the choice of occupation is made on the basis of an overall assessment of the inmate’s circumstances. As far as possible, the inmate’s own wishes must be taken into account, together with the inmate’s possibilities of gaining employment or starting an education after being released. If the inmate lacks schooling or vocational or other education, the Prison and Probation Service must guide the inmate on the possibilities of remedying this (Section 39 of the Sentence Enforcement Act).