CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Scandinavian Prisons

Two chapters from a recent book, Scandinavian Penal History, Culture and Prison Practice: Embraced by the Welfare State (2017), PS Smith and T Ugelvik (eds), London: Palgrave, have been posted on SSRN. The first is Peter Scharff Smith and Thomas Ugelvik (Independent and University of Oslo), Introduction: Punishment, Welfare and Prison History in Scandinavia. Here is the abstract:

This book is about Scandinavian prisons and their possible relationship with the Scandinavian welfare states and their associated values. One can argue that there exist multiple strong connections between the welfare and the penal systems in all these countries. It has even been claimed that it makes sense to call Scandinavian prisons welfare state institutions. On the other hand, one could perhaps say that all public institutions, including schools and hospitals, by nature are closely connected to the welfare state. If that is the case, however, then what is unique or even especially interesting about the relationship between prisons and welfare states in Scandinavian societies? Or to ask in another way, are Scandinavian schools, hospitals, etc. especially humane and well functioning compared to those in other countries, thanks to the Scandinavian welfare state model? It is not a question which will be answered nor researched in this volume but the hypothesis seems somewhat unlikely. But why then have welfare ambitions been found to be relatively high in Scandinavian prisons and how does that possibly reflect the quality, values and presence of the welfare state?
The publication of the annual State Budget is always a significant political event in Norway, and the 2013 budget (released on 8 October 2012) was no exception. One of the major new developments made public that day was the fact that Kongsvinger prison, until then an unremarkable medium-sized prison with both high-security and low-security wings serving the larger Kongsvinger area, would soon reopen as Norway’s first all-foreign prison.

So what actually happened at Kongsvinger prison? Is it still, despite the fact that it is filled with foreign nationals who lack formal rights to many welfare provisions, what one might call a Scandinavian welfare state prison? This chapter will explore the developments that followed the 2012 transformation of Kongsvinger prison. It is based on 4 months of fieldwork about a year after the change happened. In addition to the discussion of Kongsvinger prison as a specific case, I will also develop the two concepts, ‘crimmigration prison’ and ‘welfare state prison’, further.

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