Ex-Prisoners Debt: An Indirect Criminal Risk Factor

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 9:00 AM
Room: Booth 59
Oral Presentation
Annette OLESEN , Department of Law, University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark
Studies of criminal risk factors illustrate that the ex-prisoners, who successfully stay employed or begin an education, are less likely to find their way back on a criminal path.

However, the aforementioned preventive factors of criminal relapse become less effective due to the ex-prisoners debt. According to the Danish Administration of Justice Act, the state has a right of recourse against criminal offenders to recover legal costs (expenses to defense lawyers, DNA-tests, technical and accounting investigations etc.). Denmark is the only Scandinavian country, and the only country in the European Union, who does not take the income level of the convicted into consideration, when calculating the legal costs. Nor do they have a common practice of remitting convicted’s considerable legal costs.

Thus, we must regard most ex-prisoners in Denmark as highly indebted to the state. The ex-prisoners debt is generally understood as causing financial problems, but legal regulation, as an unintended consequence of the indebtedness, is still poorly explored. My research is based on interviews and follow-up-interviews with 41 ex-prisoners. The interviews and follow-up-interviews have been carried out in Denmark during a 2.5 year period. In-depth insights into the ex-prisoners’ indebtedness and living conditions confirm that ex-prisoners share a passive attitude towards the labour market and the education system. The pay-profit of having a job, compared to receiving government transfer income, does not have any (present) effect to the indebted ex-prisoners financial flexibility or everyday life in general. So, the financial boundary between the welfare poor ex-prisoners and the workfare poor ex-prisoners is unclear.

Legal regulation based on indebtedness will serve as an argument, to consider debt as an indirect criminal risk factor, which makes the preventive factors less effective, and drives the indebted ex-prisoners’ farther from the legitimated socio-economic advantaged affiliations because of their debt to the state.