Many people think prisons are all the same-rows of cells filled with violent men who officials rule with an iron fist. Yet, life behind bars varies in incredible ways. In some facilities, prison officials govern with care and attention to prisoners’ needs. In others, officials have remarkably little influence on the everyday life of prisoners, sometimes not even providing necessities like food and clean water. Why does prison social order around the world look so remarkably different?
Here is one excerpt:
…Nordic prisons have a much smaller proportion of prisoners to members of staff, about one prisoner for every staff member. These jobs attract high-quality employees, and in Finland and Norway, it is common for there to be an excess supply of applicants. Working in corrections is a more attractive career than it is in many other countries. The fact that students sometimes work as prison officers suggests that the environment in Nordic prisons is more relaxed than that in many other prisons and the work is socially acceptable. Many Nordic prison officers have university and vocational education. For example, about 20 percent of staff in Swedish men’s prisons have university degrees and staff members participate in a 20-week in-service training program and take 10-week university courses on sociology and social psychology. In Norway, prison officers receive two years of training at full salary and nearly all have tertiary educational qualifications. By comparison, California correctional officer training lasts 12 weeks and requires only a high-school diploma.
The book is due out from Oxford University Press on August 3rd.