A Swedish prison warden opens doors for inmates
''The prisoner gives me energy. Would you understand that? I'm happy to be here on this program, because these are things everyone needs to know about, and they don't.''Skip to next paragraph
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Seven hundred correctional workers sat stock-still and silent as AnnBritt Grunewald, warden of Sweden's 170-man maximum-security Osteraker National Prison (third largest of her country's more than 80 prisons), spoke about justice, Swedish style, and delivered an impassioned plea for expanded rehabilitative efforts worldwide.
The capacity crowd represented only a small fraction of the more than 3,500 correctional workers, from more than 20 countries, who gathered in Toronto recently for the 112th Congress of the American Correctional Association.
As described by Mrs. Grunewald, Sweden's correctional system is designed to open doors for lawbreakers, not close them.
About 12,000 of Sweden's more than 8 million citizens served prison terms in 1980. Nearly one-third of these sentences were for drunken driving. Even first-time drunk drivers are smacked with a 30-day prison term in Sweden.
Drug abuse is one of Sweden's most serious problems, and Mrs. Grunewald says nearly all addicts eventually come into contact with the correctional system - generally because they must sell drugs to support their addiction.
''In my quite well-informed opinion,'' said Mrs. Grunewald, who serves on a national advisory council on drugs, ''about half the Swedish prison population abuse narcotic drugs, and another 40 percent are alcoholics. Many, of course, mix several drugs - whatever they can get hold of.''
Osteraker was chosen to carry out the largest prison-based anti-addiction program to date. Mrs. Grunewald says about one-third of the prison's inmates are enrolled in the voluntary program, which blends work release with education, vocational training, and other rehabilitation activities.
Those who choose to take part in the program find dancing classes are a compulsory part of the regimen. ''It's a very important social skill,'' Mrs. Grunewald said. ''Prisoners need to learn how to meet people.''
Many Swedish offenders receive treatment in small group homes - similar to halfway houses in the United States - or through placement with families (often on small farms) specially selected for their warmth and stability. And unlike US prisons, Swedish prisons are located near residential and business sections to promote contact with the community.
Work release, furloughs, and lengthy ''sojourns'' for education, training, or drug treatment are common. They are favored by both the Riksdag (parliament) and the news media, Mrs. Grunewald said.
''Ordinary citizens are less charmed,'' she says, because the open policies mean that even those in prison can commit new crimes. And drugs can easily find their way into the prisons, she notes.
Many prisoners go home frequently for conjugal visits, a policy Sweden's government says accounts for the marked absence of prison homosexuality. The practice also strengthens family ties, Mrs. Grunewald says, and prisoners' families receive further help from Sweden's ever-present social welfare system.
Osteraker Prison, Mrs. Grunewald says, includes a motel-like facility where wives or girlfriends can meet privately with prisoners for three-hour visits.