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(en) Sweden, Malmo, The buletin of the The libertarian alternative to the ESF - Repression worth billions More prisoners, more prisons by henry ohlsson

Date Sun, 11 Jan 2009 08:14:24 +0200

Over the last decade, prison sentences in Sweden have steadily increased both in number and length.
The prison population today is the largest ever. Just a couple of years ago, prisons were
overcrowded and the need for room was immediate. Prisoners were forced to share cells and in some
prisons to sleep in dining-halls, offices, shower rooms and corridors since there was no longer
anywhere else to keep them. ---- A logical solution to the problem would have been to "restrain
oneself ", put an end to the increasing number of prison sentences and their length, as well as get
the inmates out of prison. For instance by releasing them earlier on parole or offer them a
facilitated reintegration into society through a placement in a family care home towards the end of
their prison time.

But instead the solution was building new
prisons. Over the past years new prisons
have popped up like mushrooms out of the
ground all over the country. Completely
new correctional facilities have been built,
existing ones have been extended and a
couple of run-down penitentiaries were
torn down to make way for new ones.
Unused hospitals have also been rebuilt
into prisons. This happened with the old
hospital in Sala that is now the Salberga
prison, security class C (a closed facility,
the highest level of security being A and
the lowest F). The solution was cheap, but
the result was less successful. The Prison
and Probation Service had no former faci-
lities on the spot and all personnel were
completely inexperienced. Because of the
immense need for room, the prison was
rushed into opening and soon warning
signals told of serious incongruities. The
Ombudsmen of Justice (JO) received more
complaints on Salberga by prisoners than
the prisons Hall, Kumla and Tidaholm had
together. The criticism in the media was
massive and parts of the problem remains

Security standards never before seen in Sweden

The run-down, older prisons that got torn
down had been open facilities. For instan-
ce, the open Skänninge prison was demo-
lished and replaced by a closed facility with
room for 250 inmates. Even though many
prisoners appreciate that the cells are new
and contain both toilet and shower, they
are worried by the Prison and Probation
Services' continuous development from
openness to closed prisons. Several open
prisons have been shut down and replaced
by closed facilities with walls, barbed wire,
cameras and modern surveillance techno-
logy. Without an actual need for it, security
standards are being increased everywhere.
But to which cost? What will happen in the
long term to prisoners, whose conversa-
tions are being listened to and monitored
by screws (Correctional Officers)? And
who are being watched while on the block?
How does it affect you to consistently have
to be aware of what you say or do?

"The kind of electric
fences employed surroun-
ding the prisons with the
highest level of security
in the country, Kumla and
Hall, is only found in one
other place in the world
- on Guantanamo Bay,

In some places, completely new prisons are
being built, amongst others in Östersund.
What is being built there is a new high secu-
rity prison, the result of former Minister
for Justice Tomas Bodströms initiating of
the "super prison" after a couple of escapes
that attracted attention in 2004. Here, the
Prison and Probation Service talks about
high class security, security of a kind never
before seen in Sweden. Repression worth
billions. Already the Prison and Probation
Service utilizes measures of security which
are rarely seen internationally. The kind of
electric fences employed surrounding the
prisons with the highest level of security
in the country, Kumla and Hall, is only
found in one other place in the world - on
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

What we shall reap

Kumla, since its opening in 1968 notorious
for being the hardest prison in the country,
will soon have more than 300 places a it
has been extended with what is called a
reception (where all the prisoners senten-
ced to four years or more are initially pla-
ced) and a new bunker block where priso-
ners who are said to be inclined to escape
or commit new crimes are being placed.
It is deplorable that focus is always set on
security. Not a single thought is spent on
what will be reaped ten years from now
of what is sown today. All prisoners in
Swedish prisons will be released sooner
or later. But what kind of people will be
released into society when every effort has
been used to keep them locked down and
repressed? Institutionally damaged luna-
tics? Anti social monsters? The thought is
While money is being spent on new prisons
and upgraded security measures, hard-
ly anything is being spent on treatment,
education and reintegration. New prisons
are expensive. So are metal detectors and
electronic noses searching for drugs. Even
if our politicians add extra billions, the
Prison and Probation Service is financially
down on its knees. Therefore the personnel
close to the prisoners, the ones who run
the activities that at least resemble some
kind of care, are being fired. Many prisons
don't have any psychologists employed, at
other facilities it can take years waiting to
meet one. Everything that is not security
is cut back. To be able to finance inhu-
mane monster prisons, things that could
help people get a better life, or at least to
withstand, are being restricted.


The politics of the 1960's and 1970's when
Sweden was seen as a role model for a
humane correctional system, when prisons
were emptied and torn down, when pri-
soners were being offered care, treatment
and education, today seem like a paren-
thesis. But the prison struggle is glowing,
both inside the prison walls as well as here
and there in outer society. Let's hope it will
ignite again before it is too late. Raze the
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