sweeden - doi:10.1093/bjc/azm072 BRIT. J. CRIMINOL. (2008)...

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119 doi:10.1093/bjc/azm072 BRIT. J. CRIMINOL.  (2008) 48 , 119 – 137 © The Author 2007. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (ISTD). All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oxfordjournals.org Advance Access publication 24 December 2007 SCANDINAVIAN EXCEPTIONALISM IN AN ERA OF PENAL EXCESS Part I : The Nature and Roots of Scandinavian Exceptionalism John Pratt * This is the F rst of a two-part paper on penal exceptionalism in Scandinavia that is, low rates of imprisonment and humane prison conditions. Part I examines the roots of this exceptionalism in ±inland, Norway and Sweden, arguing that it emerges from the cultures of equality that existed in these countries which were then embedded in their social fabrics through the universalism of the Scandinavian welfare state. In Nations Not Obsessed with Crime , Freda Adler (1983: 1) wrote that ‘ the province and function of criminology has been thought to be the study of crime this has meant the study of the reason for the existence of crime. By emphasizing crime the negative the exploration of non-crime the positive has usually been excluded or neglected ’ . Much the same can be said for the study of punishment in modern society, where we have become preoccupied with the nightmares of penal excess. Developments in the United States especially, where the imprisonment rate is 750 per 100,000 of population, loom large on the horizon of Western society as a whole (Christie 2000). In Part I of this paper, however, I want to give attention to the considerably more neglected subject of low-imprisonment societies . As such, it provides a sociological account of Scandinavian exceptionalism ( Savelsberg 1994 ; Lappi-Seppälä 2007). It is based on research undertaken in Finland, Norway and Sweden in 2006. This included visits to 16 prisons and discussions with academics, policy makers, criminal justice practitioners, politicians, judges and prisoners, as well as observations of everyday life in these countries. 1 By the term ‘ exceptionalism ’ , I am referring, ± rst, to the levels of imprisonment in these three countries. While there have been recent increases in imprisonment here (this is further addressed in Part II of this paper), with a rate of 66 per 100,000 of population in Norway and 68 in Finland in 2006, only Italy of the other main European countries (at 66 per 100,000 of population) was on a par with them (the rate for Denmark was also 67 per 100,000); other than these countries, only Ireland (72 per 100,000) and Switzerland (79 per 100,000) had rates less than Sweden (82 per 100,000). Second, the paper also refers to prison conditions in these countries exceptionalism does not just refer to imprisonment rates. Generally speaking, in this region, it is recognized that going to prison is itself the punishment for crime; prison conditions can then approximate to life outside as far as possible, rather than being allowed to degrade and debase all within. These claims will be substantiated in a descriptive account of the prison conditions I observed. The paper then examines the roots of this exceptionalism and illustrates the
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sweeden - doi:10.1093/bjc/azm072 BRIT. J. CRIMINOL. (2008)...

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