Why prisoners in Sweden can no longer study at university

Why prisoners in Sweden can no longer study at university

It makes sense that those working on criminal justice reform in the US look enviously across the Atlantic.

The Nordic nations outperformed the majority of the rest of the world on practically all measures, from jail rates to recidivism, thanks to a strategy that often prioritizes rehabilitation over punishment. In his intentions to turn San Quentin, the state’s oldest jail and the location of its death row, into a center of rehabilitation, California Governor Gavin Newsom cited “the Norwegian model” earlier this year.

But it’s simple to elevate the Nordic nations and group them all together. You may be astonished to find that, for instance, university-level teaching was discontinued in Swedish jails in 2019.
Prior to that choice, around 30 persons annually were enrolled in higher education. Since that time, inmates who already possess a high school diploma have had no access to academic possibilities.

Compared to Sweden’s Nordic neighbors, this is different. Prisoners have access to education thanks to the 2014 Norwegian Education Act. In Denmark, some jails allow inmates to gain college credit alongside visitors from outside the institution, while certain Finnish prisons allow inmates to enroll in online programs in high-demand disciplines like artificial intelligence.

According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention, there were around 6,150 inmates in Swedish prisons as of 2022. educating people with the least access to resources.

It was a pragmatic choice rather than a political one to stop offering higher education in jail.

About half of the prison population has less than a grade-school education, according to Lena Broo, an adult education specialist with the Swedish prison service. Because of this, administrators decided to focus their resources on giving those with the fewest opportunities the best chance of success after they were released. Accordingly, Swedish prisoners are able to obtain up to a high school diploma while they are confined.
The minimal prerequisite for employment in today’s economy is essentially a high school diploma, according to an email from Broo. That is the area of emphasis for Kriminalvrden, the Swedish Prison and Probation Service.

There is a network of “learning centers” spread across the penal service. The course material is identical to that taught in the Komvux municipal adult education program.
Inmates attend computer-based lessons provided across the system, but each of the roughly 45 jails in the US has at least one instructor who offers in-person tutoring. The educational approach is hybrid. The ability to take the lessons across the agency’s safe network enables students to switch between locations without their education being disrupted.

Svartsjö, a minimum-security men’s jail outside of Stockholm, differs significantly from US prisons seen on television in that it lacks body scanners, has only one chain-link fence around its perimeter, and has modular housing units painted in the traditional red of Swedish summer homes. The guys who are being held may leave the facility during the day to work in the local wood shop or to manage the prison’s farm.
Henrik Busk, a history instructor at Svartsjö, educates prisoners around the nation via the network of learning centers. According to him, convicts must spend at least six hours every day working, learning, or receiving therapy in a constructive manner.

He said that the rising criminal activity of young people, many of whom come from immigrant households, is one of the system’s current largest problems.

The rising number of young people in Swedish jails, according to Busk, “most feel that Swedish society isn’t open to them.”
In response to an upsurge in shootings and gang violence, the Swedish government has recently implemented more stringent anti-crime measures, including as lowering the age for a life sentence and gang enhancements.

Following a low in the middle of the 2010s when the nation even began to reduce prisons, these policies have caused a steady increase in the jail population. It is now challenging to satisfy the demands of everyone who ought to be enrolled in school due to the ensuing overpopulation.

According to Broo, in-person training is given preference to prisoners who join the system before turning 21.
university degrees, nine

In contrast to high security facilities like Kumla, where Ricard Nilsson spent almost 20 years of a life sentence, Svartsjö is extremely different.

Nilsson was freed in 2019, which allowed him to take advantage of access to higher education opportunities before they were discontinued. Nilsson obtained nine degrees and certifications while he was jailed, including a master’s in law. He was accepted to the Swedish Union of Journalists while he was still a prisoner as a consequence of his schooling.

Soon after being imprisoned in 2000, Nilsson was allowed to enroll in a sociology program at rebro University. For some of the courses, academics and students from outside the jail were present. Nilsson told Open Campus that by 2005, online courses were beginning to become increasingly popular.

He was given permission to view his online courses and use his university email while learning center officials kept an eye on him. According to him, he was only granted 10 minutes at a time to use the computer to answer to emails, download course materials, and post homework while he was taking his final classes in the late 2010s. He then finished his homework on a safe, offline computer.

Prisoners like Nilsson were able to enroll in normal university courses up to around 2019 if they were accepted into the degree program. For obligations like attending lectures, some professors were ready to make an exemption.

However, Broo said that over time, colleges and universities were less able to accept certain jailed pupils. Without more direct internet connectivity, it became practically difficult for students to enroll as institutions moved more and more of their coursework online.

A staff member had to sit next to the kid and keep an eye on the screen for the whole time they were online due to security concerns. The jail service stopped offering any supervised online schooling in 2018. In view of the rising jail population, Broo said, “We don’t have the personnel for it right now.

Now, Nilsson added, the only higher education he is aware of taking place in Swedish jails is if a professor agrees to do an independent research by snail mail.
Although some of them, like Uppsala University, have a lengthy history of instructing prisoners that stretches back at least until the 1970s, it is unclear why Swedish universities don’t provide official jail education programs.

If the practicalities can be worked out, officials from the prison service have said they are not against chances for higher study.

The change in Sweden is criticized by Nilsson. His internal educational journey served as an example for others. They are disregarding the common practice of individuals being motivated by the good deeds of others, he said.


Saurabh Gupta

Saurabh Gupta is the Content Writer and Founder of karekaise.in, A blogging website that helps reader by providing News, Article on Educational topics in both language Hindi And English. He is from Anuppur district, Madhya Pradesh, India.

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