Why Europeans’ Treating Inmates With Dignity Is “Startlingly Effective”


A visit by U.S. corrections officials to prisons in Germany and The Netherlands “astonished and inspired us,” Vera Institute’s Nicholas Turner and Pennsylvania Corrections Commissioner John Wetzel write for The National Journal. “Not only are far fewer people imprisoned, but even those who have committed serious violent crimes serve far shorter sentences,” they say.

Unlike the U.S., European prisons “are organized around the belief that, since virtually all prisoners will return to their communities, it is better to approach their incarceration with conditions as close to ‘normal’ as possible–with the addition of treatment, behavioral interventions, skills training, and needed education—and to remove them from communities for the shortest possible time so that institutional life does not become their norm,” Turner and Wetzel say. They contend that “prison policies grounded in the belief that prisoners should be treated with dignity were startlingly effective—and have eminently pragmatic implications here at home.”

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