Quarter of Prisoners Serve Sentence Outside Prison Walls

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Above: Sun shines on bench inside the Hólmsheiði prison walls. Photo: Golli

Just under a quarter of Icelandic prisoners served their sentences outside prison walls in the last year, Vísir reports. The ratio of individuals serving their sentences outside the prison walls has increased steadily in recent years. Different have measures have been introduced as alternatives to serving a prison sentence within the prison walls. These include measures such as electronic surveillance of prisoners as well as community service.

“In our eyes, it is important to imprison individuals for as short a time as possible inside closed prisons, and that prisoners go to an open prison from there. Then to a halfway house and finally prisoners complete their sentence at their home with an ankle bracelet,” Páll Winkel, director of the Icelandic Prison Service, stated. Furthermore, Páll stated that this approach increases the chances of an individual adjusting to society slowly but surely and that they can find their footing after their sentence is completed.

Waiting list finally shortens

In spite of these changes, the number of individuals waiting to serve their sentence has increased steadily on the Icelandic Prison Service summons list. The waiting list nearly doubled between 2010 and 2017, from 300 individuals to 570. In 2018, the waiting list was reduced for the first time in a decade as there were 536 individuals on the list, waiting to serve their sentence.

Even though prison spaces have increased since the new prison on Hólmsheiði was put into use, it does not tell the whole story. According to Páll, the Icelandic Prison Service lost 24 prison spaces in total when two Reykjavík area prisons shut down, Hegningarhúsið on Skólavörðustígur and the women’s prison in Kópavogur. There are 56 prison spaces in the new prison in Hólmsheiði, but it is up to funding how many of the available prison spaces can be put into use. Páll states the Hólmsheiði prison is expected to be put into full use this year.


Prison cell in Iceland’s newest prison, Hólmsheiði, opened in 2016. Photo: Golli.

Increase in custody

The number of individuals placed in custody each day has increased by 45% in the last four years. It has gone from 17,5 individuals in custody per day in 2015, to 25,7 per day on average in 2018. Alda Hrönn Jónsdóttir from the South Iceland Police believes it is connected to special investigations into organized crime. “I would believe that this is connected to specific cases, they have hit us hard the last two years and become ever more difficult and complicated,” Alda stated. She notes, however, that this is speculation based on her experience.

The number of individuals in custody had been steady from 2008, and was most often between 15 to 20 individuals per day. The number went up to 24,1 per day in 2017 and stood at 25,7 in 2018. Alda does not believe this increase can be connected to an increased emphasis on domestic violence and sexual offences, even though there may be some increase in those cases. An emphasis was placed on those offences a couple of years before the increase in custody numbers.

However, the number of individuals in solitary confinement when in custody has decreased steadily in the past decade. The number is down from close to 30% in 2008 to just over 10% in 2018.


Source : Iceland Review

Drastic Cutbacks for Marine Research Institute

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There are drastic cutbacks afoot for the Marine and Freshwater Research Institute of Iceland (MFRI), Vísir reports. The institute has had to lay off between twenty to thirty employees, and the research vessel Bjarni Sæmundsson has been moored permanently.

MFRI CEO Sigurður Guðjónsson stated that these are necessary measures to meet the cutback demands set forth by government authorities. The institute has been instructed to cut back costs to the tune of ISK 303,5 million ($ 2.55 million, €2.10 million).

Sigurður states that the government’s demand for cutbacks was a surprise. The official appropriation towards he MFRI has been reduced as well as a reduced contribution from the official Fishing Industry Research Fund (Verkefnasjóður sjávarútvegsins). “We expected a general demand for streamlining, like has been the case in the last years, but not these drastic measures,” Sigurður stated.

The Marine and Freshwater Research Institute employs just under 200 people and runs two full-time research vessels.

Interestingly, a parliamentary resolution was proposed in the summer of 2018 for the construction of a new marine research vessel. “A strong showing in marine research, and the monitoring of oceans, are main prerequisites for the sustainable usage of the ocean’s natural resources, and improve our knowledge of the environment and those changes which can take place. This parliamentary resolution proposes that next year [2019], the preparation of the construction of a new marine research vessel will take place, and it built, in the years 2020 and 2021. By doing so we look towards Iceland continuing to lead in terms of decent conduct with nature as well as marine- and fish research,” the statement read.

Several organizations have criticized the cutbacks severely, and Minister of Fisheries Kristján Þór Júlíusson has stated that authorities will respond to the criticism. “I am very hopeful that this ISK 300 million cutback will not take place – that is to say we can respond to the situation in a different way than the MFRI’s CEO has announced,” Kristján Þór stated.


Source : Iceland Review

Weather Warning Across Iceland

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Wind speeds are expected to reach 40-50m/s today in North Iceland, the Icelandic Met Office reports. The office has issued a yellow alert for the Westfjords, as well as North and East Iceland. Stormy weather is expected to begin at noon today and last until noon tomorrow.

In the Westfjords, southwest gales are expected near Ísafjörður, Bolungarvík, and Hnífsdalur, as well as on most mountain roads. Wind speeds will be between 15-23 metres per second with gusts reaching 35-40m/s. Similar conditions are expected in Northwest Iceland, with gusts reaching up to 45m/s near mountains. Travellers are advised to show caution.

In the Northeast and East of the country, wind gusts are expected to reach 40-50m/s, particularly near Langanes peninsula, in Jökuldalur, and in Vopnafjörður. The storm will reach its peak in the afternoon or evening today. Travellers are encouraged to check road and weather conditions before setting out.

Temperatures warmer than seasonal

The storm front is not expected to bring snow, and in fact could bring with it unusually high temperatures for January. According to the Met Office’s weather outlook, temperatures in the east could reach 10-15°C (50-59°F) today, and even approach 20°C (68°F) tomorrow.


Source : icelandreview.com/

Fjaðrárgljúfur Canyon Closed Due to Damaged Vegetation

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The popular tourist attraction Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon in South East Iceland has been closed due to severe damage to vegetation, Vísir reports. The Environment Agency of Iceland made the decision to protect the area. The area has been under stress in recent times, which has caused damage to vegetation alongside a trail. It’s believed the damages can be caused to the increased numbers of travellers in the area.

The weather played its part as the last couple of weeks have been warm along with the area receiving copious amounts of precipitation. This has caused the trail, which lies along the canyon, to become damaged and it is now ill traversed due to mire and mud.

“This causes guests to walk outside of the marked trail. The vegetation is in hibernation this time of the year so the area becomes extremely sensitive to intrusion. It is damaged quickly with the intrusion of travellers outside of the trail, as well as creating new faulty trails. A large number of travellers visit the area each day, so the stress on the trail and its surroundings is immense. A repair and reconstruction of a part the trail was completed this summer, and that part is in a decent condition. A new trail alongside all of the canyon has been designed which will withstand changeable weather as we’ve experienced in recent weeks. We aim to begin that construction at the first opportunity”, part of the Environment Agency’s statement read.

The Environment Agency of Iceland had previously closed off the canyon in March, 2018. The area is a naturally protected one, and is number 703 on the list of natural features in Iceland. The area will be closed off from January 9. The Agency intends to review the closing no later than within two weeks, if the area’s status changes.

The car park in the area will be closed off, and it will be impossible to park cars in the nearer surroundings of the area.

Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon is popular for its natural beauty. Situated in South East Iceland, the Fjaðrá river runs through and has carved itself around 100 metres deep. It is about two kilometres long, with steep walls and a winding river. It is situated close to the town of Kirkjubæjarklaustur.

Source : icelandreview.com/