Wednesday, November 29

Finnish Triple-Murderer Escapes from an 'Open Institution'

What exactly is an Open Institution?

Inmates participating in work or other activities and who are considered to suit in freer circumstances and are not likely to leave the institution without permission, are placed in open institutions. In open institutions inmates always use their own clothes. All open institutions are intoxicant-free institutions, in which an inmate is required to controlled commitment not to use intoxicants. - Finnish Prison Service

Here is a photo of facility that the triple murderer escaped from:

("The Hamina Work Colony is a minimum security penal facility". HS Photo)

As you can see, this 'prison' is dependant on the prisoners not walking away. This is why, as it says above, they only put low-risk inmates in there. Here is where is gets tricky as the Finns, with their European-style 'forgive the criminal' mentality decided that a triple murderer with a life sentence was a low-risk criminal.

Convicted triple murderer Juha Valjakkala, who currently goes under the name Nikita Joakim Fouganthine, escaped from the Hamina Work Colony run by the Finnish Prison Service in the south coast city of Hamina on Monday night.

Valjakkala was last seen at the minimum security penal facility at roll call Monday evening at about 10:00 PM. His absence was noticed at eight in the morning, on Tuesday, which means that the escapee could have a head start of up to ten hours. - HS

Now if it makes you feel any better, according to their rules, he did not exactly escape. He just left without permission:

Leaving an open institution is not considered as an escape. If a prisoner has left the institution without permission, he can be ordered as a disciplinary punishment a loss of served time at most 20 days. In 2005 18 (27 in 2004) prisoners left an open institution without permission. - Prison Service

He must have had a good reason to leave, because being in prison in Finland is almost like not being in prison at all.

You get the have private visits with the wife:
Prisoners have the right to receive visitors at certain times reserved for visits during weekends and for a special reason at other times as well. In prisons there are family meeting rooms were close family members may meet in home-like circumstances for a few hours without supervision. - PS
Your even allowed to go on vacation from prison:

A prisoner may be granted a permission of leave after he/she has served a half of the sentence or if there is an especially important reason. The permission is granted if it is likely that the prisoner complies with the permission conditions. To a prisoner guilty of aggravated drug or violent offence or a prisoner who has earlier violated the permission conditions grossly can permission of leave be granted only if the complying with of the conditions is considered almost certain. - PS

And the Government pays for it:
Travel costs on the permission of leave are paid from state funds if the permission has been granted due to a close relative’s serious illness. Also the travels during the first leave and always when it is 6 months since the last return are paid by the state. Then the cheapest way of travel must be used. A prisoner may not leave the Nordic countries. - PS
Did you catch that last part? You can even leave the country. I would think that these events would be family related. I can't see even the Finns letting prisoners out to that they can go to a rock concert or something. So if it is a family event, why not require the family to pay for their loved one to show up.

So, lets back back to this wandering ex-triple murderer. Here is a summary of his Wikipedia page:
Juha Veikko Valjakkala (born June 13, 1965) became a part of Finnish and Swedish crime history in 1988 when he was convicted of the murder of a family of three at a cemetery in the northern Swedish community of Åmsele.

The series of events that led to the murders began when the 22-year-old Valjakkala was released from a prison in Turku on May 1, 1988, after which he started wandering through Sweden and Finland with his 21-year-old girlfriend Marita Routalammi.

On July 3 they arrived in Åmsele. After nightfall Valjakkala stole a bicycle. He was pursued by Sten Nilsson and his 15-year-old son Fredrik. The chase ended at a cemetery where Sten and Fredrik Nilsson were both shot by Valjakkala with a shotgun. Later Sten's wife and Fredrik's mother, Ewa Nilsson, went looking for the two and was stabbed to death by Valjakkala outside the cemetery. Valjakkala and Routalammi were caught in Odense, Denmark just over a week later.

Valjakkala was given a life sentence on three counts of murder, while Routalammi got off with two years for complicity in assault and battery. Routalammi was released after serving half of her time, and Valjakkala was transferred to Finland to serve out the rest of his sentence.

In April 1994 Valjakkala fled the Riihimäki prison where he was being held. He took a teacher as a hostage, but he was apprehended nearby and the hostage escaped the situation unscathed. He has also tried to escape once in 1991. - Wiki
He also attempted to escape from a prison (with fences) in 2004. That totals three attempted escapes prior to this escape. That does not include his arrest in 2002, in Sweden, where he went while on furlough/vacation from prison. He went and failed to return. So lets call it four attempted escapes.

If he is caught, his punishment would only be an additional 20 days which means nothing since he is serving a life sentence. for those familiar, a life sentence in Finland is about 12 years. He has already served 18 years and was waiting for a Presidential pardon. It might be that he got tired waiting.

I am taking a beating for my harsh stance on punishment of crime at this site here that is discussing this escape. It keeps getting brought up that it is the US's harsh punishment of criminals that is the cause of the America's high crime rate, compared to Finland and Europe's in general. I call BS on that and here is a little to back that up:
SUPERIOR POLICING does little good without a commitment from the justice system to keep violent thugs off the streets. The United States has the longest prison sentences in the Western world. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics and its counterparts in other countries, a convicted armed robber can expect to serve about four and a half years behind bars in the United States, a little over two years in Great Britain, a bit less in Germany, and less than 18 months in France. The United States imprisons nearly 700 out of 100,000 citizens as compared to about 125 in the U.K. and Canada, 100 in Germany, and about 60 in most of Scandinavia. Some of these countries may actually have fewer thugs than the United States, but those left unpunished do enormous damage.

While building and staffing prisons costs a great deal, letting criminals roam free costs even more. One violent criminal can do over a million dollars worth of damage in the space of a year. A single armed robbery costs society more than $50,000, and a hardened thug can commit a hundred such crimes in a year. The European elite still seems to regard Americans' desire to lock up violent criminals as an index of barbarism and America as a nation gripped by violence and infatuated with rough, frontier justice. With violence and theft exploding all over the developed world, however, one has to ask which type of society is barbaric--one that punishes criminals, or one that lets them prey on law-abiding citizens?

Not surprisingly, overwhelming evidence demonstrates that keeping criminals locked up reduces crime. British academic Donald E. Lewis's comprehensive 1986 examination of studies on the correlation between sentence length and crime rates (published in the British Journal of Criminology) concludes that doubling the length of the sentence for a crime will cut the likelihood that criminals will commit that crime by a little less than 50 percent. In a comprehensive comparison of crime rates in the United States and Great Britain, a Bureau of Justice Statistics researcher and the head of Cambridge University's Criminology Institute hit on the key fact: Crime rates fell in the United States as punishment increased and rose in Britain as punishment decreased. As James Q. Wilson has observed, "coincident with rising prison population there began in 1979-80 a steep reduction in the crime rate as reported by the victimization surveys." - Weekly Standard
OK, the study mentioned is a bit old, so here is a comparison of the percent change in crime between 1997 and 2001. (Appears to be the most recent study, released in 2003.)

- Finland +12%
- US -12%

Violent Crime:
- Finland +7%
- US -12%

- Finland +7%
- US -15%

Domestic Burglary:
- Finland -24%
- US -14%

Car Theft:
- Finland +3%
- US -9%

Drug Trafficking:
- Finland +79%
- US 0

While the US has a higher absolute crime rate, the trend for the US is a decline in crime. That can't be said for Finland.

Take this from the 'murder' entry in Wikipedia:
Finland is the most violent nation in Western Europe according to several recent studies. The most likely way to get "manslaughtered" in Finland is to get stabbed or severely beaten by an intoxicated male person. Also, guns such as rifles and shotguns have traditionally been more usual in Finland than in most of Europe due to the popularity of hunting. There are over a million registered guns and firearms in private ownership in Finland while the country's entire population is only a little over five million. - Wiki
So Finland shouldn't brag about their low crime rate, unless they are bragging to Americans. Keep in mind that being drunk is an acceptable excuse in Finland as to why a person is not guilty of murder.

Finland is not the only country with this problem. I have a good friend from Estonia. She had mentioned that Estonians go to Sweden to commit crimes because even if they get caught, Swedish jails are not that bad.

What is the right way to treat a triple-murderer like Juha Valjakkala? I would think that this would be a person worthy of the death penalty. The Finns think otherwise. And that is why he is now out loose wandering the Finnish, or even perhaps the Swedish countryside.

You can bet that Juha has no problems with the Finnish system. Neither do two other Finns who have committed murder in the US and then fled to Finland, to avoid the death penalty.

Finnish triple murderer escapes from minimum security prison - Helsingin Sanomat
Crime Without Punishment - Weekly Standard
International comparisons of criminal justice statistics 2001 - PDF
Finnish Murderers - Wiki

Update: 1 December 2006

Finnish police have recaptured escaped* triple murderer Juha Valjakkala.
Police arrested escaped triple murderer Juha Valjakkala at his private home in the Maunula district of Helsinki at 7:30 Thursday evening. Valjakkala, who had escaped from the Hamina Work Colony run by the Finnish Prison Service in the south coast city of Hamina on Monday night, did not put up any resistance when he was arrested. - Helsingin Sanomat
Great they have caught him, but this follow-up story makes this whole case even stranger. For starters, what is a person who has been in jail for the last 18 years, serving a life sentence, doing with an apartment? How is he paying the bills for the apartment? Is the Government paying the bills? Why didn't he have the place rented out? Are there some protections in place because it would be unfair if he lost his home while in prison?

Just how did he get to Helsinki? Why he stole a car of course:
Jalonen thinks that it is likely that Valjakkala drove to Helsinki in a car that was stolen from Hamina at about the time that he fled the city. The car was found in Maunula the following day. However, Jalonen emphasised that the investigation is not yet complete. - Helsingin Sanomat
Good thing the car owner did not confront him. After all, this guy killed three people over a bicycle. A bicycle. Is he in jail for theft of a bicycle? No, for murder. That was how far this guy was willing to go as a criminal. Killing for no real reason. It's not like he was robbing a bank or other hi-stakes crime.
Minister of Justice Leena Luhtanen (SDP) said on Thursday that transferring Juha Valjakkala from an ordinary prison to a more open labour colony was a mistake.

Speaking in Parliament during Question Time, Luhtanen noted that the decision was made by the Criminal Sanctions Agency, and that the Ministry of Justice had no knowledge of the matter.

MP Petri Salo (Nat. Coalition Party) asked how it was possible that a triple murderer with a record of four escapes could be moved to a labour colony where supervision of inmates is more difficult, and escape is easier. - Helsingin Sanomat
Too bad there will not be a serious questioning of this case. He will be put into a real prison for a while, but not for very long. After all, he was recommended to be pardoned and released. (Keep in mind that according to the law, he did not escape despite the title of the article.)
Inspector Jukka Siltaloppi of the Criminal Sanctions Agency says that Valjakkala will be placed immediately in a closed prison.

Siltaloppi believes that Valjakkala will not have any hope of getting a furlough or being transferred to a minimum security prison for at least six months to a year.

He also faces disciplinary action, which could vary from a warning to solitary confinement.
- Helsingin Sanomat
Wow. No vacations for at least six months and it will be at least a half year before he can escape again from the Hamina facility. The police also managed to interrupt a meeting he was having with a woman:
In addition to Valjakkala there was a woman about 40 years old in the apartment. The National Bureau of Investigation is looking into her possible involvement in the events, but police say that she is being treated as an outsider.

"She has certainly had some kind of relationship with Valjakkala, but we have not yet investigated the matter", said Police Inspector Kari Jalonen. - Helsingin Sanomat
Treated as an outsider? What the hell is that. She was found in the apartment with the most-wanted man in Finland. She was either a hostage or she was an accomplice. Looking at this Finnish article here where they interview the woman, it seems she was more of a girlfriend although she claims in the article that there is no love there, even though she met him in prison and continued to write and that the apartment was hers and that he just took his vacations there. Yeah right. (Feel free to add a better translation in the comments if I misunderstood.) Anyway, they did not take her in for questioning, which is how the news reporter got her hands on her.

Clearly, this is not the end of the story. He is not dead yet.

The Finns are lucky that their murder rate is low. I can't see how they could manage with too many more murderers to deal with. They won't have to deal with this one for much longer as he is overdue for release. Yes, I know that he is in for life, but in Finnish terms that's about 12 years. As it stands now, he has been in prison longer than anyone else in Finland.

Update: 2 December 2006

Juha Valjakkala tried to hang himself in prison. Unfortunately, he did not succeed so they will still have to deal with him once he gets out of prison. Interesting in that he proved so efficient in being able to kill others yet failed when attempting to kill himself. Maybe he is no longer a danger to society.

Kolmoismurhaaja Juha Valjakkala yritti perjantaina itsemurhaa. Ilta-Sanomien mukaan Valjakkala yritti hirttäytyä vankisellissään Helsingin vankilassa eli Sörkässä. - Helsingin Sanomat
Surely this story is nowhere finished.

Update: 4 December

Here is the summary of the hanging attempt in English:

Juha Valjakkala, who was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing three members of the same family in northern Sweden in 1988, tried to hang himself after being re-arrested on Thursday. Valjakkala escaped from a low security prison at Hamina in Finland on Monday but was seized three days later at an apartment in Helsinki.

Now he is being detained under police guard in a psychiatric ward in the Finnish capital, according to Aftonbladet and the Finnish paper Ilta Sanomat. Two hours after Valjakkala was arrested on Thursday he was found in his cell "in a bad condition". He was taken to the emergency ward of Helsinki's Maria hospital.However, his injuries were not judged to be serious and Valjakkala was taken to a secure psychiatric ward. - The Local, Sweden

How is it possible that he could have managed to try and kill himself within two hours of being recaptured? Wasn't he interrogated? How often do guards go around checking inmates? Are Finnish criminals that different that they can be relied upon to behave on their own?

There are some other things that bother me. How is it that he was permitted to change his name? Really. Just think about that. In a country of about 5 million people, they kind of know who their infamous criminals are (I am told) so it is completely idiotic to permit an infamous criminal to change his name and give him a new identity. Poor him if he is stuck with a name that everyone recognizes, for the wrong reasons.

Also, when are European countries going to stop transferring prisoners back to their home country to serve their sentences? I can understand that it makes it easier for the relative to visit prisoners, but shouldn't the prisoners take that into consideration prior to doing the crime? At least in the case of murder, I would think that the country where the crime took place might have more of an interest in ensuring that the prisoner is kept locked up. If they are willing to commit crimes in other countries they should be ready to face justice on those other countries, including the death penalty, like in the US.

*"Leaving an open institution is not considered as an escape." Finnish Prison Service

Police catch escaped triple murderer Juha Valjakkala in Helsinki - Helsingin Sanomat
Järjestin Valjakkalalle pakopaikan - Iltalehti


Anonymous said...

Heh, the whole incident sure was absurd. Pretty sure he'll go to a real prison now that he's caught, maybe even have to wait longer for his pardon too.

I'm totally against the death penalty as you know but I don't really have a clue as to how much we should punish criminals. There are other ways to curb crime like education, psychiatric help etc, and those should definitely be improved everywhere. Then the sentences could be harsher and effective, no doubt. Sure, they could be longer in Finland already, especially for organized and white-collar crime. It doesn't feel right IMO to punish harshly someone who has criminal tendecies "by nature". I know it's impossible to tell (or you might not even believe that exists) but I've always wondered why some people steal car radios or shoplift when it's a lot easier to make the 2 bucks working. There must be some appeal to it and no punishment can cure it.

Anyway, I doubt that being easier on criminals would help with America's crime problem. Seems that it's getting better every year and that's good. I also doubt that we should be a lot tougher on criminals in Finland. For the growing crime rate I can only blame the way of the world and nation. High unemployment sure doesn't help as well as the culture of bad parenting.

Finally, you said that being drunk is an excuse in Finland which it isn't. It grants no sympathy or shorter sentences what-so-ever. And it shouldn't since it would compromise every trial. What I said on FFT about the arsonist being drunk was only to point out that a death penalty would've been an extremely cruel punishment for a drunken prank no matter the consequences.

Fred Fry said...

While we disagree about the death penalty, it is always gret to receive well-reasoned comments.

I see that he has been caught, which means that I have to update this post.. That is the pain when blogging about current events!

Anonymous said...

Valjakkala is now a free man.