Imprisonment and community service

A sentence of imprisonment is at least fourteen days and at most twelve years or, if the sentence concerns several offences, at most fifteen years. When a sentence of imprisonment of over two years is passed, it cannot be suspended, but must be served in custody. A sentence of imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years may be conditional. A person under 18 years of age will be sentenced to unconditional imprisonment only in exceptional cases. A convict prisoner is usually not conditionally released until the prison sentence has been served in full. More information about this can be found on the Prison Service website.

In principle, life imprisonment means that the convict will stay in prison until the end of his or her life. Helsinki Court of Appeal may after 12 years of imprisonment (10 years in the case of a young offender), at the earliest, decide on the condi-tional release of prisoners serving a life sentence. The sentence may be terminated also by a pardon issued by the President of the Republic. For more information on presidential pardons, see the website of the Ministry of Justice.

Community service

Community service is an alternative to imprisonment. In this sentence, the convict performs unpaid work to the benefit of the community. The preconditions are that the sentence imposed on the convict is at most eight months and that the convict is both suitable and willing for community service. The suitability assessment is a matter for the Criminal Sanctions Agency and the ultimate decision on community service by the court.

The maximum amount of community service that can be sentenced is 200 hours. For example, a sentence of imprisonment for three months is converted into community service for thirty hours. The service is then performed over a period of three months. The objective is that the convict is serving the sentence for the entire duration of the imprisonment sentence. Thus, he or she is not permitted to work off the service requirement e.g. in ten days. A breach of the service conditions, such as arriving late or under the influence of intoxicating substances at the service station, may result in the unperformed part of the service being converted back into imprisonment that is to be served in a prison.

If the length of a conditional sentence of imprisonment exceeds one year, community service can be imposed as a supplementary sanction.

More information: Criminal Sanctions Agency

Published 12.9.2017