Life imprisonment in Finland

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In Finland, life imprisonment is the maximum criminal penalty. In actual practice, life imprisonment rarely lasts for the remainder of a convict's life; it currently consists of imprisonment in closed prison and possible periods of imprisonment in a halfway house, supervised parole and full parole. The death penalty was abolished in Finland in 1949 for peacetime offences and for all offences in 1972.

Life imprisonment is the only possible penalty for the crime of murder and a possible penalty for high treason, treason, espionage, war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and homicidal acts of terrorism.

Under the Finnish criminal code of 1889, which with considerable revisions remains in force today, life imprisonment consisted of at least 12 years of imprisonment after which the convict was conditionally released and remained on probation for the rest of their life. After 1931, release was by presidential pardon and the probationary period was eight years. Today, those sentenced to life imprisonment may be considered for parole after 12 years and most are released after serving between 12 and 15 years. Release is not, however, automatic.

Until the prison sentence reform of 2006 there were effectively two types of life sentences in Finland. Besides life imprisonment proper, a violent repeat offender could, if they were deemed dangerous, be ordered to serve a non-life sentence in isolation (eristäminen pakkolaitokseen). A person sentenced to isolation would normally be paroled after serving their full term, but if they were deemed to remain dangerous their release could be postponed, in principle indefinitely, by six months at a time. The latter system was somewhat similar to some versions of "three strikes" laws in the U.S.

In 2006, isolation of repeat offenders was abolished. Instead a sentence of up to 15 years may be passed with at least 5/6 to be served.[1] There were no convicts at the time serving life for any other crime than murder.

Currently, Helsinki Court of Appeals (Helsingin hovioikeus) acts as Parole Board and a life prisoner is considered for parole after serving 12 years.[2] If the parole is rejected, a new parole hearing is scheduled in 2 years. If the parole is accepted, 3 years of supervised parole follows until full parole, assuming no violations. If the convict was less than 21 years of age when they committed the crime, the first parole hearing is after 10 years served. Juveniles cannot be sentenced to life imprisonment in Finland, the maximum penalty for an offender who was under 18 years of age is 15 years, with possibility of parole after 7½ years.[citation needed].


  1. ^ Finland's Penal Code, chapter 2c, 11§
  2. ^ Finland's Penal Code, chapter 2c, 10§, [1], Releasing of long-term prisoners Act (781/2005), [2]