Serving comunity sentence in Norway
Norway had a new Execution of Sentence Act since 2002 which included a restructuring of community sentences. The new community sentence consists mainly of execution services beneficial to the society, but can also include programs and activities considered to be effective reduce recidivism. Community sentence is meant as an alternative to prison sentence, and can be used against offenders who otherwise would have got a prison sentence of less than one year. One main purpose of community sentence in Norway is to avoid that the offenders loose contact with the labour market and the society at large. This report describes some Norwegian experiences with community sentence.
The first part of the report describes who are sentenced to community sentence rather than prison, compared to those who serve a relatively short sentence in prison. These groups are compared on a number of socioeconomic variables. This part of the analysis shed light on social inequality in sentencing. We show that those who are sentenced to community sentence are largely similar to those sentenced to prison on socioeconomic characteristics such as educational level and employment. But those who are sentenced to prison are a bit older, are more often divorced, and have previously served time in prison. Those who get a community sentence are somewhat better off than those who get a prison sentence, but the difference is not very large.
The second part of the report describes changes in employment situation on a monthly basis from 24 months before serving their sentence until 24 months after. The outcome for those on community sentence is compared with a matched comparison group of offenders who serve their time in prison. It is shown that there are very little changes in the employment rate among those who serve a community sentence. As a main purpose of community sentence is to prevent the convicts of dropping out of the labour market, this indicates that this goal is achieved. However, this applies to a large extent to the comparison group as well, although they have a somewhat reduction in employment rates, which is temporary. Neither are there much changes in the proportion receiving social benefits among those who serve a community sentence, while there is a marked increase after having served their sentence in the comparison group. In conclusion, those who serve a community sentence do not seem to get noticeable increased problems on the labour market after execution of the sentence, and it is possible that community sentence has up to a moderate positive effect compared to a matched comparison group.