America is known for its overcrowded prisons and harsh penitentiary conditions, but how does it rank compared to some of the other prison systems around the world? America – the Supermax: How not to treat mentally ill patients One of the most notorious jails in America is the ADX. The Administrative Maximum Facility, aka the ADX Supermax in Colorado was…

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By Dianne Frazee-Walker Sweden is doing something to lower the recidivism rate and forcing prisons to close because they are taking a different approach to crime and punishment. Globally, we need to play close attention to what Sweden is doing. The sentences are not as long in Sweden, which makes prison authorities realize the work…

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By Dianne Frazee-Walker Prisons in England and Wales are starting out the New Year with a new policy that honors veteran service personnel inmates. Upon reviewing just how the criminal justice system deals with veteran prisoners, the English government has established a new approach that recognizes and supports veteran prisoners upon entry and release, and…

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By Charlotte Mackenzie

In the last year or so, Malawi’s justice system has had more than its fair share of VIPs coming through its doors. In October 2012, several high-level officials linked to Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were arrested in connection with the death of student activist Robert Chasowa, who was murdered in 2011 when the DPP was in office. And in light of the recent government corruption scandal – dubbed Cashgate in reference to the wads of cash found in suspects’ homes and cars – more high-ranking figures, including former justice minister Ralph Kasambara, have been taken into custody.

For once, these individuals are seeing their country’s justice system from the inside. But in Malawi, justice, like so many other things, seems to be a privilege rather than a universal right. And the experience of Malawi’s VIPs is likely to be a universe away from that of the 12,000 ordinary citizens detained in prisons across the country.

A tale of two justice systems

Robert Chasowa, a student activist and critic of the late Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika, died in September 2011. Against much outcry and suspicion, his death was originally classified as a suicide. After Mutharika passed away and Joyce Banda took over the presidency in April 2012, however, she reopened the case. A few months later, in October 2012, several figures – many members of the DPP – were arrested in connection with Chasowa’s death, now being treated as the result of murder, and transferred to Chichiri prison in Blantyre, the largest in the Southern region.

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(NC)—Across Canada human rights supporters have recently been celebrating the releases of a number of prisoners of conscience—people jailed solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs. In China, poet and journalist Shi Tao was released after more than eight years in prison. Supporters of the human rights organization Amnesty International (amnesty.ca) had long campaigned…

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Dianne Frazee-Walker

Imagine a perfect world where the recidivism rate is low, prisons are not overcrowded, and offenders are rehabilitated.  The correctional system in some European countries, such as Germany and the Netherlands have made this a reality. 

In February, a group of American corrections officials, judges, prosecutors and public defenders conducted research that proves the United States has a lot to learn from European countries about correctional rehabilitation. The group took the initiative and took a trip to Europe to investigate what was working for European prisons. The differences they discovered between the European and American penal system were astounding.

Germany and the Netherlands incarcerate one-tenth the rate of the U.S., where sentencing time is considerably longer. These American judicial officials spent a week visiting prisons in Germany and the Netherlands. The consensus was that the determining factor for these European countries’ success is their approach is directed more towards social reintegration than punishment.   

A new report based on the group’s findings indicates that the failing American prison system has a hopeful chance of recuperating from the faltering situation it is in by adopting some of the European penal procedures that are working.

Practices in Germany and the Netherlands allows inmates to prepare for release ready to face the world as productive citizens. During the time inmates are serving their sentences they are allowed a significant amount of discretion over their lives.

Inmates are granted individual privacy and the privilege of making their own decisions about their lives. Some can wear their own clothes and cook their own meals.

Interaction with correctional officers is respectful. Prison staff are educated to use innovative management and conflict resolution skills along with security training.

Germany and the Netherlands use incarceration only when appropriate. Community-service programs, probation or fines are alternatives to prison time. American prisons impose much longer prison sentences than European countries. While the average state prison term in the United States is about three years, more than 90 percent of Dutch sentences and 75 percent of German sentences are 12 months or less.

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