Renting cells abroad: Understanding contemporary policy responses to prison overcrowding

Linda Kjær Minke*, An-Sofie Vanhouche

*Corresponding author for this work

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Since 2019, Denmark has faced problems of prison overcrowding exacerbated by shortages of prison staff. To overcome this, Denmark reached an agreement to rent 300 prison cells from Kosovo in order to house convicted prisoners from non-EU countries scheduled for deportation from Denmark after their sentences have expired. Based on the Belgian (2010-2016) and Norwegian (2015-2018) experiences of renting prison cells abroad, this article will explore the Danish policy of easing prison overcrowding by renting prison places abroad. The findings show that the principle of renting prison cells abroad can solve immediate problems of overcrowding for the sending state and fill empty prison places in the receiving state, but not without serious concerns. In particular, the commodification of foreign national prisoners can undermine the protection of prisoners’ rights such as legal certainty and protection against torture or cruel and unusual treatment. Moreover, renting prison cells is a short-term solution for prison overcrowding underlying the fundamental issue of expansionist prison policies in European countries.
Translated title of the contributionLeje af fængselspladser i udlandet som løsning på overbelægning i fængsler
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordic Journal of Criminology
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-16
Publication statusPublished - 1. Feb 2023


  • Prison overcrowding
  • Renting prison cells abroad
  • Forced transfers
  • Legislation
  • Crimmigration


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