FACT CHECK: Facebook Post Makes False Claim About Prisons, Electricity In Iceland

Christine Sellers | Fact Check Reporter

A post shared on Facebook claims there are no prisons in Iceland and that electricity is free.

Verdict: False

Iceland currently operates four prisons, according to the State Prison Service’s website. Likewise, data from Statista shows electricity prices Icelandic residents pay vary depending on how many kilowatt-hours they consume. A criminology expert confirmed Iceland has four prisons in an email to Check Your Fact.

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The Facebook post claims there are no prisons in Iceland and that electricity is free. “ICELAND: The country where education and medicare are free. No prisons. No army. Electricity is free and people rarely lock their cars and houses!” the post’s caption reads in part.

The claim is false. Check Your Fact conducted a keyword search, which led us to Wikipedia, which states that Iceland’s Prison and Probation Administration (PPA) currently runs five prisons. The prison at Hólmsheiði is the largest, according to Wikipedia.

Likewise, Iceland’s State Prison Service lists four prisons on its website, including Hólmsheiði. According to the same website, Hólmsheiði “is a detention and reception prison with a section for female prisoners and facilities for serving shorter prison sentences and alternative sentences.”

In addition, Check Your Fact found no credible news reports to support the claim. Actually, the opposite is true. On June 27, Lead Stories reported the claim is false. Francis Pakes, a criminology professor at U.K.’s University of Portsmouth, told the outlet Iceland currently operates four prisons and that a fifth, located in Akureyri closed in 2020. Pakes purposely sent himself to Icelandic prison, which he detailed in a 2018 article for The Conversation, the outlet reported.

In an email to Check Your Fact, Pakes confirmed there are four prisons in Iceland.

“There are four prisons in Iceland, two are high security and two are open prisons. People are sentenced to prison, and are held in those prisons. The closed prisons are Litla Hraun in the south and a new multipurpose facility called Hólmsheiði just outside Reykjavik. The open prisons are Sogn in the South and Kvíabryggja in the West. So, prisons clearly exist, are used and are internationally recognised. A fifth, a small facility in the Northern town of Akureyri closed in 2020. So, there used to be 5 prisons and now there are 4,” Pakes said.
“Sometimes people wish to portray Nordic societies as peaceful and crime free, but they are not crime free and prisons fulfil an essential function in Iceland. I have heard the same myth about Greenland. But Greenland has a new state of the art prison in the capital Nuuk, so it is not true in the case of Greenland either,” he added.

The claim that electricity is free in Iceland is also false. Data from Statista shows Icelandic residents with “a consumption between 2,500 and 5,000 kilowatt-hours averaged 15.3 euro cents per kilowatt-hour in the first half of 2023.” According to the same data, Icelandic residents with a consumption between 1,000 and 2,500 kilowatt-hours averaged 18.5 euro cents per kilowatt-hour in the first half of 2023.

The government of Iceland’s website states that “about 85% of the total primary energy supply in Iceland is derived from domestically produced renewable energy sources. This is the highest share of renewable energy in any national total energy budget.”

Lead Stories also labeled the claim that electricity is free in Iceland as false via the same June 27 article.

Check Your Fact has also contacted the Icelandic Prime Minister’s office for comment and will update this piece accordingly if one is received.

Christine Sellers

Fact Check Reporter