Observations on Correctional Programs and Policies in Selected European Countries

Gao ID: GGD-78-52 April 10, 1978

Many European corrections officials believe that imprisonment has largely failed as an effective treatment for many offenders. Corrections officials were visited in Denmark, The Netherlands, Sweden, England, and Germany to identify some policies and programs used in these nations to develop alternatives to imprisonment, minimize the adverse effects of imprisonment, and improve offender employability.

Although widely supported by European justice and corrections officials, the extent to which a country practices alternative sentencing depends on certain factors: the existing penal code may set minimum punishment levels for specific offenses, some offenses may be decriminalized, courts may lean toward more lenient sentencing, and the public may accept a more liberal sentencing policy. Despite interest in alternative sentencing, imprisonment is still considered an appropriate method for dealing with certain offenses. However, steps have been taken to minimize the adverse effects of traditional forms of imprisonment, such as instituting liberal leave and visit policies, establishing less structured forms of imprisonment, and providing prisoners with a greater sense of participation in decisions affecting their stay in prison. In all countries visited, national prison laws require sentenced inmates to either work or to be enrolled in education or training programs; the purpose of these provisions is to facilitate return to a normal life.

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