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14 How. J. Penology & Crime Prevention 3 (1974-1975)

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     We learn from history that men never learn from history.
     Recent history in the Netherlands, California and elsewhere shows
how  the  institutional population can be reduced, and  now  Gunnar
Marnell describes how, in Sweden, a treatment-orientated r6gime yielded
to demands  for maximum   security institutions, after which there was a
crisis, forcing the authorities to pay more attention to the prisoners' point
of view.
    Since the strikes the paths of the English and Swedish prison ad-
ministrations have, so far, diverged. Here, partly perhaps because the
prisoners were not so well led, the reaction was mainly repressive. In
Sweden  the authorities talked to prisoners' representatives, and agreed on
sensible moderate reforms  such as more  home  leaves and  the virtual
abolition of censorship.
    The  difference seems to be that the Swedes accept that prisoners are
citizens who have broken the law: punishment consists in loss of liberty,
but should not remove other rights of self-determination unless inherently
necessary. Here, prisoners are still treated as non-citizens, members of
what the Victorians called the dangerous classes.
    Yet  the Swedish way is not necessarily the best. Firstly, bargaining
under threat of sanctions emphasises the division between the two sides;
although Marnell  describes it as a practical means of problem-solving,
almost therapy, there is much to be said for the less formalized, more
personal approach of a prison like Grendon, where instead of confronta-
tion staff and inmates try to work together. But if the authorities refuse to
move  any faster towards the latter, the prisoners may be pushed into
organizing collectively.
     Secondly, it seems to stress the improvement of prisons rather than their
replacement. But the Swedish prison population is falling rapidly, and it
may be argued that by showing that many prisoners can behave responsibly
when  allowed to go out into the community, one can prompt the question
whether they have to be removed from  the community  in the first place.
    Although  the Swedish system is far from ideal it does show that the
more  repressive features of imprisonment can be removed without causing
the catastrophe which some  people fear as a result of softness. The
following reforms, suggested by experience in Sweden, should be intro-
duced here without delay:

1.  Cancellation of the building of maximum   security prisons, except
      possibly for replacements of antiquated buildings (and transfer of
      funds to alternative forms of treatment).


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