Denmark to Pay Kosovo $236M to Rent Prison Cells as Prison Population Swells

Denmark plans to rent 300 prison cells in Kosovo to house the overflowing Danish prison population for 210 million euros, or $236 million.

If the 10-year plan is ratified by both countries' parliaments next year, a prison in Gjilan, 30 miles away from the capital of Pristina, will house the Danish prisoners, Eris Hana, a senior legal adviser with the Kosovo Ministry of Justice, said.

Danish Justice Minister Nick Haekkerup said "it will be a groundbreaking and historic agreement that will both create space in our prisons and ease the pressure on our prison officers," freeing up 326 cells in Denmark.

According to Hana, the plan will also include a donation of over $68 million over the next decade to help Kosovo build up its green energy, as its current energy system relies on coal. The country's coal energy system is currently in crisis, every day only producing 60 percent of what people would generally use.

Officials will sign a letter of intent for the agreement next week, then the agreement signing and ratification process is expected to take place in early 2022.

The Gjilan prison will be run by one Danish and one Albanian warden, in addition to local employees.

"One of the strongest and biggest benefit is that we are returning the Kingdom of Denmark as a strategic partner to the Republic of Kosovo, and we are making them one of our strongest donors," Hana said.

Kosovo, Gjilan, prison
Kosovo's Justice Ministry said on Thursday that it has struck a preliminary agreement to rent 300 prison cells to Denmark, to help the Scandinavian country cope with its over-populated prison system. Above, Kosovo prison guards on December 17, 2021, inspect the fence of the 300-cell prison in Gjilan, which could house Denmark prisoners if the deal is secured next year. str/AP Photo

Earlier this week, Haekkerup said the agreement with Kosovo would help "expand the prison capacity in Denmark by several hundred places."

The Danes have conducted a research study that concluded that Kosovo's correctional institutions "have the best infrastructure in the region and also have the capacity to take 300 inmates," Hana said.

Kosovo's prison system has a capacity of up to 2,000 from which about 400 are still free.

Fatmira Haliti of the Kosovo Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims, a nonprofit organization that monitors the system, said that transferring about 200 inmates from Gjilan prison to make way for Danish prisoners would naturally overpopulate other prisons.

Despite systemic improvements and some new facilities in recent years, "Kosovo's correctional service leaves much to desire and can hardly be compared to those in Denmark," Haliti said.

Hana said they aren't speeding up negotiations, which are considering every detail. The Danish delegation is requesting investment in infrastructure.

"We want to create the same standard for them and we will achieve it," he said, referring to Denmark's prison standards.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Gjilan, Kosovo, prison
If Denmark and Kosovo's parliaments approve, hundreds of Danish prisoners will be sent to a prison in Gjilan, Kosovo, in a $236 million deal. Above, a view of the 300-cell prison in Gjilan on December 17, 2021. str/AP Photo