Source: (2007) Crime and Justice. 36(1): 217-295.

Scandinavian imprisonment rates are among the lowest in Western democracies, despite 20-30 percent increases in recent years, and penal policies generally are among the mildest. Reasons for this include the continuing strength and credibility of the welfare state, high levels of social trust and political legitimacy, consensual and corporatist political cultures, and the central roles of career judges and other non-political practictioners. Political and penal cultures differ somewhat between countries. Crime control is more openly a contentious political issue in some than in others. Policies have become harsher concerning drugs, sex, and violence. Punitive changes, however, tend to be narrowly focused, while other changes in sanctions policies tend to be liberalizing and broad-based. Overall, commitments to liberal values, human rights, and rational policy making remain strong. (Author's abstract)