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Scandinavian American. [volume] (Seattle, Wash.) 1945-1958, January 01, 1948, Image 3

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Prisons Without Bars
By Gumnar Rudstedt, warden of a prison near Stockholm,
in The American Swedish Monthly.
Compared with a great many
other nations, Sweden stands out
as a fortunate and progressive
country which has enjoyed peace
for nearly 150 years and which
has a very homogeneous popula
tion, almost entirely native-born.
The living standards of the peo
ple reach few peaks, on the one
hand, and no real lows, on the
other. The general prosperity is
solidly established.
During recent times social re—
forms have contributed greatly to
giving the public at large a share
in this prosperity and to equaliz
ing the living standards of var
ious social groups. The cities do
not have the slum areas and mixed
population which create such sev-'
ere problems in many metropoli
tan centers of the world and pro
vide a constant source of crimin
ality and other forms of social
conduct. The relatively “idyllic"
crime situation in Sweden and the
leniency and generosity shown to
ward the criminal must be viewed
against this background. I believe
that the road Sweden is follow
ing in the treatment of the of
fender is the right one, but I do
not believe that her solution of
the problem can be exported gen
At present there are about 2,000
persons in Sweden's penal institu
tions. out of a population of about
6.700.000. To this might properly
be added about 500 offenders who
have been declared mentally irre
sponsible by the courts and have
been placed in mental hospitals
not managed by the prison admin
istration. Outside the institutions
there are generally about 8,000
persons on probation or parole.
All Sweden‘s prisoners could
easily be placed in a single insti
tution. which would not have to
be particularly large according to
American standards. However. the
authorities have not aimed at
achieving any such concentration.
Prisoners are divided among some
fifty institutions. this system of
distribution having been in force
for many years. Large concentra
tions have their dangers; it is dif
ficult to av’old unfavorable con
tacts among the inmates even
when the most careful attempts
at classification within the insti
tution are made. Furthermore it
is impossible for the head of an
institution to learn to know each
inmate. A system of smaller pris
ons is expensive. but criminality
is no gigantic problem in Sweden,-
and the nation feels it can afford
this generosity.
Sweden’s penal institutions are.
broadly speaking. divided into
thirty walled and twenty open in
stitutions, with a total of 1500
inmates in the former and 500 in
the latter. Institu‘fions of the open
type are often extremely small“-
simply farms or camps accommo
dating from 20 to 30 persons each.
Even the walled institutions are
small. The largest prison. in
Stockholm, (which has a popula
tion of some 700,000) has about
300 prisoners and the two next
in size about 150 each.
About 1000 prisoners are serv
lng sentences at hard labor. and
of these some 250 are serving
sentences less than one year. At
the moment there are only six
serving life terms. but there are.
in addition. a few dozen convicted
murderers in mentnl hospitals. A
person convicted of murder in
Sweden nowadays is rarely turned
over to the prisons. When he is
subjected to the mental examina
tion required for every prisoner
accused of such a crime. he is
usually found to be so abnormal
mentally that he must be given
hospital care instead of prison
treatment. The death penalty was
abolished in 1921. but the last
execution occurred in 1910.
Young people under 18 years of
age are rarely committed to penal
institutions. Instead they are
.placed in special schools super
vised or managed by the Child
and youth welfare bureau of the
Department of Public Welfare.
Youthful offenders. handled by the
prison administration, are those
between 18 and 21. About 250 of
the 2,000 prisoners are detained
for trial or sentence. A number
of these are being held for men
tal examination. There are only
‘about 80 women prisoners all told.
1 The foyegoing figures are given
lto show that Sweden's criminal
element is easy to supervise and
ihandle. from an American point
of view. There has been no crime
‘wave for many years, and public
opinion and the press wholeheart
edly supported the recently insti
tuted reforms in the direction of
increased humaneness. A new law
was passed which went into effect
July 1. 1946, the fundamental
principle of which is that the pris
oner shall constantly be treated
‘with respect for his dignity as a
}human being. It is firmly believed
lthat loss of liberty is the essen
itial element in all prison sentences
;and that in the majority of cases.
‘there is no need for any addi
tional severity in the punishment
than that' which grows out of the
‘need of separating the prisoner
from the world outside. All minor
details of "the institution's man
agement are~ left to the discretion
of the superintendent instead of
being, as formerly, regulated by
‘ The progressive reform of Swe
den's penal system during the last
twenty years has resulted in the
separation and confinement of dif
ferent types of offenders in spec
ial institutions. A penal institu
tion does not primarily serve a
given geographic area; it is us
ually designed to receive a special
class of prisoners. There has also
been a general effort in Sweden
to increase the influence of the
physician in the execution of penal
treatment. In addition to the men
tal hospitals outside the control;
of the prison administration. the‘
latter has an institution in charge;
of a physician. There are also a‘
number of psychiatric clinics con
nected with the prisons. and in
these clinics the physician is the
one who determines treatment.
The courts now require mental
examination of defendants in an
increasing number of cases. The
examination is made before the
court's decision is rendered and
often requires a period of two
months. It is very thorough. and
the social environment of the of
thesocial environment of the of
fender. Guided by the results. the
court decides whether the defend
ant is to receive an indeterminate
period of treatment in charge of
the prison administration. be sen
tenced to simple imprisonment or
'hard labor, turned over to a men
tal hospital. or given a suspended
sentence with conditions attach—
ing regarding work. domicile.
training, etc.. resembling Ameri
can probation. .
The new Act of 1946 also ai
lows "furloughs." enabling the
prisoner to visit his home at regu
lar intervals or take care of other
private matters.
Furloughs are ordinarily grant
ed four times a year to almost
every prisoner who has served
about half his sentence. has shown
no direct evidence of social dan
ger. and has been well-behaved
and industrious in the institution
It is a good means of strengthen
ing the individual‘s self-Confi
dence. preparing him for ultimate
freedom and securing discipline
within the institution.
In Sweden all prisoners are paid
fur their work for the institution
Practically all prisoners are as
signed certain work. and the au—
thorities try as much as possible
to assign a minimum of mainten
ance work and instead place the
inmate In productive labor. Com-
“Stockholm" On First Trip Feb. 2]
“Stockholm," the new motor ship of the Swedish American Lino,
will leave Gothenburg, Sweden. on Feb. Zist on hc-r maiden voyalge, I
and is expected to arrive in New York March int. 1‘
mutation. or time off earned for
good behavior, does not exist, ex
cept that such matters are kept
in mind when parole is considered
in the case of those with indeter
minate sentences. The wage earn
ings vary in American equivalent
from 10 to 50 cents a day, but
it should be noted that the purch
asing power of this wage is some.
what greater in Sweden than in
the United States. The inmate
may spend about half of this in
come in the purchase of cigar
ettes. candy. fruit and magazine
or newspaper subscriptions with
out restrictions. With the balance
the prisoner pays for dental care.
clothing for use on release, etc..
for in Sweden these costs have.
to be borne by the inmate. Sav
ings may also be used for the sup
port of dependents. but most of
it is set aside for the time of re—
The types of work performed in
the Swedish prisons are about the
same as those found in American
institutions, emphasis being laid
on carpentry, mechanical shop
work, tailoring. and agriculture.
Agricultural work dates back to
1917. During the winter season
some of the prisoners in camps
and other open institutions are
engaged in lumbering.
According to the new legisla
tion prisoners are to be encour
aged in maintaining contact with‘
their families or others dear to:
them. At the institution where the
writer is engaged. visitors are per
mitted on Sundays for one hour
in the walled section and three'
hours in the open cottages. The
rules for correspondence have been
relaxed. The inmate may write
uncensored letters to the prison
administration and can thus make!
whatever complaints he wants to;
present. such letters are. however.’
returned to the head of the in-}
stitution for his comments. At]
my institution we have begun to'
permit those assigned to the open]
and half-open sections. that is.’
those who are to be paroled re-$
latively soon. to send and receive}
uncensored letters to and from rem
latives. !
Schooling. academic or voca—
tional. is provided to the extent
it is found practical. but it seems
to me that it has reached a higher
plane in the United States than
in Sweden. One of the advantages
of the large institutions in the
United States is that they permit
development of a more varied oc
cupational program.
Entertainments and sports are
permitted about as they are in
America. with motion pictures
lnow and then and football games
‘with outside teams. Occasionally
theatrical and musical artists give
lvolunteer performances for the
i A Swedish prison guard works
'48 hours a week. His salary is
[about equal to that of Swedish
;civil servants generally. Before he
Ereaehes the age of 40 he gets an
iannuai vacation of 20 days. This
:is increased to 30 days after his
.40th birthday. He is retired from
lservice at the age of 60 and re
'ceivea a pension at that time
[amounting to about two-thirds of
his salary. Specified amounts are
regularly subtracted from hisi
monthly pay check as a contribu-fi
tion toward his pension. A prison:
warden receives from $300 to $400,
monthly ’as salary. and an annual
vacation of 45 days. with retire-;
ment at 65. Nowadays a college
degree is usually required for the.
administrator; often he is a law-1
yer, or a teacher. ;
All Swedish prisons are underj
the direction of the Prison Ad
ministration in Stockholm. whichl
in turn is governed by the De-L
partment of Justice. ;
After traveling extensively in
the United States, I express my'
admiration for the remarkable:
manner in which prison author
ities here in various parts of the3
nation have solved problems ofi
penal treatment of a magnitude
and difficulty quite unlike what
there is to contend with in Sweden.
In this country I have seen insti
tutions so attractive from an es
thetic point of View. so well man
aged in spite of their great size.
that they have made an indelible
impression on me. It is difficult‘
to compare the prison problems:
1of our nations. but I have learned
many useful lessons that I shall
carry back home. I want to ex
press my warm appreciation to
the superintendents. wardens and
officers of the penal institutions
of the United States for the will
ing assistance and great hospital-l
-ity they have shown me. i
Owing to last year's exceptional I
drought, some 15 million logs have
been stranded in the upper reach
es of the rivers in northernmost
SWeden because of lack of suffi
cient water to float them down
stream to the saw mills near the l
coast on the Bothnian Gulf. An
additional cause to this situation;
has been the unusually great cut
ting of timber during the current
season. i
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Danish Order
To Eisenhower
At a ceremony held at the Dan
ish Embassy in Washington, D.
C., recently. Gustav Rasmussen,
Danish Minister of Foreign Af
fairs, handed over to General of
the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower
the insignia of the ancient Danish
Order of the Elephant, Denmark's
highest honor.
The decoration is worn by the
King of Denmark, Royal families
and heads of States, but outside
those categories the only ones to
whom it has been given at the
present time are General Eisen
hower and Field Marshal Viscount
It is one of the oldest and most
distinguished Orders of Knight
hood in the world, founded in the
1440‘s by King Christian I of Den
mark. at about the same time as
the institution of the British 0r
der of the Garter. Those of the
Order of the Elephant are re
quested to submit their coat-of
arms. and a shield is wrought and
hung in the chapel of the Castle
at Frederiksborg.
The sign of the Elephant is a
heraldic symbol of wisdom and
strength. The badge is worn on
the right side suspended from a
wue sash draped over the left
shoulder and is a white-enamel
gold elephant with a cross on its
side set with diamonds, and a
diamond on its forehead. carrying
on its back a red—enameled gold
tower. It is worn together with an
eight-point silver star. in the cen
ter of which—inside a laurel
wreath—is a silver cross on a red
background which brings out the
Danish colors.
The late King Christian X con—
ferred the Order upon General
Eisenhower on December 15, 1945.
at which time the General was
compelled toiforego his contem
plated visit to Copenhagen. It is
according to the personal wishes
of King Frederik X that the in
signia were presented to General
Eisenhower on the occasion of the
Danish Foreign Minister's visxt to
the United States.
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