A friend recently sent me a video about the five nicest prisons in the world. My first thought was, how can a prison cell be nice, and even if it so, does it make the sentence any less shameful and intolerable? I watched the video nevertheless and was stunned. Some of these prison cells were like hotel rooms with a flat screen TV and even a refrigerator. Have a look
Baston Prison, Norway- This is on the number one spot as far as luxury, amenities and lifestyle of the inmates. Working its way to one of the first ecological prison, this boasts its own private island surrounded by the pristine blue waters. Prisoners here have access to horseback riding, fishing, gardening, tennis and cross-country skiing in their free time. Unlike other prisons, they are not confined to cells but live in their own private cottage and work on the farm there. Inmates here expected to focus on human relations and how they influence each one’s behaviour and also have a deep sense of respect for nature as well.
Champ-Dollon, Switzerland– The name Switzerland is synonymous to beauty, the snow peaked mountains and the vast green expanse. Who knew their prison’s would also be a thing of beauty. This prison almost looks like a 3 star hotel.
Sollentuna Prison, Sweden– The cells almost resemble the rooms from an Ikea catalogue. Why not, after all Sweden is the birth place of Ikea. Prisoners have access to a gym, a kitchen where they can cook their meals and of course TV. So a typical day would be; wake up, hit the gym, take a shower, cook breakfast and eat it while watching TV. Heck even I don’t get to do that on a normal day.
Justice Center Leoben, Austria- Apart from the usual TV and kitchenette many cells have balconies too. Not just that, inmates here can wear normal clothes and lead an almost ‘normal’ life.
JVA Fuhlsbuettel Prison, Germany- Luxury cars and now luxury prisons, why not? Inmates have their private shower and toilet and even a laundry machine to do their laundry. What next, Mercedes Benz to move about the property?
Watching the video made me introspect and doubt the rationale behind such prisons. Are the inmates supposed to get used to such comfort against the heinous crimes they commit? Shouldn’t they live a life of restraint and austerity so that they can get out and realize how horrible prison life is, and perhaps resolve to never commit a crime again?
And while I was leaning towards the futility of such extravagant and pompous show of colossal amounts of tax payer money wasted, Google search slaps me hard with these statistics-
Reoffending rates at the Baston Prison in Norway is 16% as compared to a European average of 70%, while Sweden is shutting down prisons due to lack of prisoners. Clearly not even the uber comfortable living conditions are enticing enough for people to commit crimes. That does not mean most of these prisons mentioned above have a lot of vacancy, but the striking thing is despite the amenities, no inmate wants to stay in these forever. They all want to be free for freedom cannot be confined or be allured with lavish arrangements.
This made me draw a parallel to our lives outside the prison cell; where we all think we are free but many times despite our swanky apartments, lavish cars, designer clothes and an ultra comfortable lifestyle, we feel shackled and bound; shackled by greed, envy, pride, anger, prejudice, duplicity, hypocrisy, malice and deceit. Being confined by the walls of these, our lives become no better than the prisoners serving their sentence inside these swanky prisons.
While they have a predefined sentence and a set date when freedom will be awarded to them, we all are given a lifetime sentence and sometimes many lifetimes to break free from these shackles. However, the questions remains, not when will we be free, but do we really want to be free?
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