Denmark Borrows Prison Space from Kosovo Due to Overcrowding

Denmark’s prisons are so overcrowded that the country has rented out 300 jail cells from Kosovo.

Last Thursday, the parliament in Kosovo approved the plan to help Demark cope with its overcrowded prisons. The cells that will be rented out will be located in a prison that’s been rebuilt.

They are only meant to hold convicted criminals from countries outside of the European Union who Denmark plans to deport once their sentences are completed.

The deal was announced first three years ago. At the time, many people expressed concern over how prisoners are treated in Kosovo. Denmark tried to ease those fears by saying that all prisoners held in Kosovo prisons would be treated the same as those held in Danish prisons, and all the same rules would apply to them as well.

While the deal was agreed to in 2021, the parliament in Kosovo wasn’t able to officially pass it because there was opposition party work at play. Once the vote was finally taken, it passed with the support of 86 members of parliament, which has 120 total seats.

Kosovo’s president still needs to sign the bill before it can officially take effect.

The 300 cells are located in the eastern part of Kosovo, near a town called Gjilan. As part of the deal, Denmark is set to pay Kosovo roughly 210 million euros over the next decade. That’s the equivalent of $228 million.

Kosovo’s government has said that they will use the money to improve the prison system in the country, as well as to invest in different projects revolved around renewable energy.

Peter Hummelgaard, the justice minister in Denmark, said it was welcomed news that Kosovo approved the agreement, which allows the Kosovo prison rebuilding project to start.

As he said:

“This is crucial for us to secure more Danish prison places and will help bring our hard-pressed prison system back into balance. At the same time, it sends a clear signal to criminal foreigners that their future is not in Denmark, and therefore they should not serve their time here.”

Albulena Haxhiu, the minister of justice in Kosovo, added in a statement following the vote:

“This agreement is a proof of trust and mutual respect between our two countries.”

Different rights groups have said detention centers and prisons in Kosovo are typically marred by significant violence that takes place between prisoners as well as staff. In addition, there is much corruption in the system, a general lack of medical care available and plenty of exposure to radical political and religious views.

Prisoners who are barred from being sent to Kosovo include Danish nationals, anyone convicted of a war crime or terrorism, and any prisoner who is seemed to be mentally ill.

It’s uncertain at this point when Denmark will begin sending prisoners to Kosovo to spend their time behind bars.

The prison will be run by a Danish warden, though local prison staffers will provide support.