“Our role is not to punish. The punishment is the prison sentence: they have been deprived of their freedom. The punishment is that they are with us,” says Nils Öberg, director-general of Sweden’s prison and probation service.
The United States prison system is widely regarded as broken. Prisons were supposed to “rehabilitate” offenders who have wronged society by punishing them with a prison sentence. Unfortunately, the United States prison system has failed to rehabilitate thus producing high recidivism rates and overall crime. In Sweden, they are testing a new approach to crime. Oberg, the director-general, believes in addressing the inmate’s needs in order for he or she to correct the behavior that led them to prison in the first place. Sweden’s prison rates are significantly lower after they implemented this approach. They’ve also been fortunate enough to actually close prisons because of the lowered crime rate.
Photo of Izalco Prison, El Salvador, by Meridith Kohut for The New York Times.
Think U.S. prisons are bad? Inmates in Latin America face the threat of massacres, hand grenades and inmates wielding assault rifles, not to mention rampant disease and overcrowding so severe that beds are a commodity. The situation is dire, as this New York Times piece makes abundantly clear. Yet what is the solution? Building more prisons? Better trained corrections officers? Work release and re-entry programming? What lessons might the U.S. share, based on our successes and failures as a prison nation?
Gustavo Amador/European Pressphoto Agency
A fire at a central Honduras prison has caused over 300 deaths, and this tragedy has drawn attention to the broader crises of overcrowding and violence in the nation’s carceral system.
The New York Times covers the story, with a photo slideshow that includes images of prisoners’ relatives watching the fire from outside the prison fences.
The former commander of America’s most notorious detention facility describes his experiences at Guantanamo and offers an opinion on its usefulness here.
Photographer Glenna Gordon takes us into the heart of Liberia’s prisons in a series of haunting images for a new Amnesty International report. See full photo series here.