What if we put prisons in the countryside?
Have you heard of Asputna prison in Sweden? Located 10 kilometers south of Stockholm, is this high security prison whose aim is to teach its detainees how to live. This countryside prison looks like a vacation village. The barbed wire fence is facing outwards and not inwards—to prevent people from infiltrating the prison with contraband (alcohol, for example). The detainees, wearing electric bracelets, organize their life at the prison and participate in structured activities, 8 hours a day. They can receive family members and friends in a bar on the shore of a lake. “In winter, when the lake is frozen over, prisoners could potentially escape by walking on the ice”—says warden Fredrik Wallin, but the risk of being captured and sent to a classic, closed prison is a deterrent. Before being assigned to an open prison, prisoners are assigned to 6 weeks of observation. Authorities in Sweden believe that if all is well, all prisoners should be placed in open prisons. These prison conditions are the opposite of the conditions for the 1.8 million prisoners in Europe: the Committee for the Prevention of Torture has just published its annual report and has a depressing inventory of the conditions of detention in Europe: impunity, over population and bad treatment “continue to haunt penitentiary systems”. What if reform was more effective than repression?