Sentencing and Punishment
The Decline of the Repressive Ideal
The Nordic countries share a long legal and cultural history. The connection between Finland and Sweden has been exceptionally close. For centuries, the same laws were in force in both because Finland was part of Sweden up to 1809. Between 1809 and 1917 Finland remained an autonomous grand duchy of the Russian Empire (but still maintaining its own laws). Finland declared independence from Russia in 1917. During the twentieth century, Finland experienced three wars (the 1918 Civil War and the two wars against Russia between 1939 and 1944). The exceptional wartime and postwar conditions made their mark on Finnish criminal policy. For instance, dire economic circumstances were reflected in the prison administration of the time. There was little scope for the treatment ideology, so prevalent in Denmark and Sweden, to catch on in Finnish policy at mid-century. Instead, the postwar crime increases led to stiffer criminal legislation in the 1950s. In general terms, the criminal justice system of Finland in the 1950s and 1960s was less resourceful, less flexible, and more repressive than those of its Nordic counterparts.
In the 1960s, the Nordic countries experienced heated social debate on the results and justifications of involuntary treatment in institutions, both penal and otherwise (such as in health care and in alcoholism treatment). The criticism found a particularly apt target in the Finnish system. Even though it is difficult to establish that treatment was actually abused (since genuine treatment was hard to find in any event), there was ample evidence of excessive use of incarceration. Also other features of criminal legislation were vulnerable to severe criticism. Most of the provisions of the Criminal Code of 1889 were still in force, representing a sharp contradiction between the values of the class-based society of the nineteenth century and the rapidly developing social welfare state of the 1960s. During the late 1960s, not only did flaws in the treatment ideology become more evident but demands for more adequate and less repressive criminal law grew louder.